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Friday August 19th, 2022 4:13AM

Falcons keep focus on defense, take LSU LB Riley in 3rd

By The Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons' focus on defense remained firm when they traded down to select Louisiana State outside linebacker Duke Riley in the third round of the NFL draft.

The selection marked the third straight year the Falcons have drafted defensive players with their first two picks, a trend which has mirrored the tenure of coach Dan Quinn.

The Falcons traded their second-round pick to Buffalo for three selections in the draft — the No. 75 overall pick used to pick Riley — and two picks in the fifth round on Saturday.

It was Atlanta's second trade of the draft. The Falcons traded up in the first round to select UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley on Thursday night.

Riley led LSU with 93 tackles as a senior, including nine for losses. He had an interception.

Falcons punter Matt Bosher announced the selection of Riley at the draft in Philadelphia but erred by identifying the linebacker's school as Duke.

In the trade which brought the team pass-rush help with McKinley, Atlanta traded the No. 31 overall pick, a third-round pick and a seventh-round selection to Seattle. McKinley was the No. 26 overall pick.

The Falcons arranged for a private jet to take McKinley and some of his family members from Philadelphia to Atlanta on Friday. He toured the team's practice facility and talked with a few Falcons players, including former UCLA teammate Devin Fuller, a wide receiver.

McKinley still carried the large framed photo of his late grandmother, Myrtle Collins, at the Falcons complex that he took with him to the stage of the NFL draft on Thursday night.

"I never knew my father at all," he said Friday. "My mom left my life when I was about 5 years old, did drugs and stuff like that. I was raised with my grandmother. She basically paid the bills by collecting water bottles and cans. Those were worth like 5 or 10 cents. That's a lot of bottles and cans to collect.

"My job as a kid was just bringing in bottles. I didn't know how big it was. I didn't realize I was keeping a roof over our heads."

McKinley said his grandmother died about 30 seconds after he made a promise to her he would play Division I football and in the NFL.

McKinley was emotional at the draft as he held the photo and talked about his grandmother. Some of those emotions were expressed with expletives.

"That was just pure relief, my emotions," McKinley said Friday. "I've been through a lot in my life and like I said that promise to me means everything, just to be able to complete it."

When listing family members with him at the Falcons' facility, McKinley said "my grandmother is here in spirit and I brought her with me.

"She's somebody who never gave up. For me, that's how I play on the field, never give up. Run to the ball. It's not hard to do. If the quarterback scrambles, scramble with him. If it's a screen pass, who knows? Chase it down. It all starts with my grandmother and that's how I play."

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