2020 NFL Draft Profile: Fresno State DE/LB Mykal Walker
The versatile Bulldogs defender has a chance to make some noise at the professional level.
What role could Walker play in the NFL?
The Atlanta Falcons selected the former Fresno State linebacker early in the fourth round.
After a breakout campaign in 2018, last fall presented a unique challenge from Fresno State’s Mykal Walker. It isn’t often that an athlete racking up double-digit tackles for loss as a defensive end is asked to hold down the middle of the field at linebacker the following season, but that’s exactly what happened and, despite the defense’s drop-off from dizzying heights, it’s hard to pin too much on Walker’s continued strong efforts.
The NFL, however, has given other Fresno State defenders a rather cool reception over the last couple of seasons. Could Walker break the trend and get drafted?
As you might expect, Walker receives high marks from draft prognosticators for his versatility and on-field instincts. Lance Zierlin of NFL.comlisted “above-average field awareness” and “recognition of blocking schemes” among Walker’s strengths, while Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network sees the potential for Walker to be a defensive “chameleon”.
Furthermore, in an interview with Draft Wire’s Justin Melo, Walker himself said that defending the run was his “bread and butter” and the high grades that he has received for his tackling ability bears that out. Zierlein wrote that Walker had a “good finishing rate as a wrap-up tackler” and both Crabbs and Jake Ellenburgen of DowntownRams.com pointed to his first-step quickness and short area agility as highlights of the upside.
Nearly everyone sees how Walker adds value as a special teams contributor, as well, which could give him an edge in making an NFL roster over other similar hybrid prospects.
The flipside of Walker’s versatility is that he enters the professional ranks with some “master of none” limitations. Coverage skills seem to be a particular sticking point for draft analysts: Crabbs “wouldn’t consider him for anything other than shallow zones in coverage role”, while TDN peer Joe Marino noted that he will need to “develop better feel in zone drops to trust his landmarks, feel routes and cue the backfield”.
He spent just one season at the FBS level as an inside linebacker, as well, and doesn’t have the physical imposition that other prospects in this linebacker class possess. While those two details may not be outright dealbreakers in NFL draft rooms, they are probably points of caution.
Walker may not be getting as much love as other linebacker prospects in the Mountain West, but the reality is that he possesses a different skill set than Logan Wilson and David Woodward. More imporantly, it’s still a suite that NFL teams can use. In a draft class that isn’t especially deep at linebacker, it’s a safe bet that Walker will land on a needy team sometime on Day Three, probably in round five or six.