FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons are in the midst of their most successful run in franchise history and players like Takkarist McKinley are a big reason why.
No, not defensive ends entering their second seasons but rather the development of homegrown players – players the Falcons have cultivated through the draft. After a promising rookie campaign, McKinley was identified by NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal as the Falcons' key homegrown player for 2018.
"McKinley rushes the passer like he rushed onto the NFL stage at the draft last year," Rosenthal writes. "His motor only cranked up more as his rookie season progressed, as he recorded sacks in each of his two playoff games. His energy can be felt at the top of the cheap seats.
"After recording eight sacks on only 464 snaps last season, including the playoffs, McKinley could quickly become a premier pass rusher with a bigger workload. I'm a lot more confident in McKinley's ascent to star status than Vic Beasley's ability to recapture his 2016 form."
McKinley turned in a promising rookie campaign, and he could be in line for a bigger role in his second season. The Falcons knew McKinley possessed great speed coming out of UCLA, but Quinn explained last year that he was pleasantly surprised at the power McKinley showed as the year progressed.
The Falcons have been among the best NFL teams at drafting and developing players. Atlanta's roster is filled with homegrown talent like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones and Devonta Freeman, who have become some of the top players at their respective positions.
The previous decade has been the best 10-year stretch in Falcons history. In that time, the Falcons compiled a 95-65 regular season record, finished with double-digit wins in six of those 10 seasons and earned their second Super Bowl berth in franchise history. If McKinley takes another step forward in his development this season, he will be just the latest draft pick to help the Falcons continue a franchise-best run.