The city of Atlanta is in a state of depression after the way Super Bowl LI played out. They had the Lombardi trophy in their sight, but a major second half collapse stopped that from happening. For a team that has never brought home a Super Bowl trophy this loss was heartbreaking. As for Matt Ryan, he played just as well as a QB could in a Super Bowl. That is what first round draft picks are supposed to do, they play well when they need too. Matt Ryan has been one first round draft pick that the Falcons made the right call on, but who else has panned out as projected? First round draft picks are so crucial and it is a must to not waste it, but every year there are many teams who's first round pick don't turn out to be what they were expecting. We take a look at the Atlanta Falcons best 8 first round draft picks and their 7 worst.
15 BEST: LB Vic Beasley - 2015
Vic Beasley is a rising young star in the NFL who was only drafted two years ago. The Falcons drafted Beasley with the 8th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and he has been as good as they get. In just two seasons, Beasley has piled up 19.5 sacks and 8 forced fumbles. Out of those 19.5 sacks, 15.5 of those came in 2016 and that was a league high. So this second year linebacker out of Clemson led the league in sacks in just his second season. He is a major reason for the Falcons making it to Super Bowl LI and will be the vocal point of that defense for years to come. I know he only has two years under his belt, but Beasley has a chance to be among the best linebackers in the game for the foreseeable future.
14 WORST: WR Shawn Collins - 1989
Shawn Collins, out of Northern Arizona, was the Falcons first round selection in 1989. He figured to be a big part of Atlanta’s offense after being the 27th overall pick in the draft, but that was not the case. He only lasted in the NFL for 5 seasons and only 3 of those 5 seasons were with the team who drafted him. He ended his career with only 98 catches for 1433 yards and 5 touchdowns. Those numbers are not good regardless of where you are drafted, but especially not as a first round selection. He only had 3 catches in his lone season in Cleveland and then did not record a catch in his final season in Green Bay. This was one of the worst picks in Atlanta’s history.
13 BEST: WR Roddy White - 2005
Before the Julio Jones era in Atlanta the Falcons had a man by the name of Roddy White. The 27th overall pick in the 2005 draft was exactly what the Falcons thought he would be, and more. White is the all-time leader in receptions, yards, and touchdowns for a receiver in Falcons history. In his 11 year career, all in Atlanta, he hauled in 808 catches for 10,863 yards while catching 63 touchdowns. He has been named to 4 Pro Bowls coming in four straight years starting in 2008. Once the Falcons found Julio Jones, White’s numbers took a major dip and after the 2015 season he was finally released. White is the best wide receiver to ever put on the Falcons uniform, statistically, but that will change in a few years after his ex-teammate, Julio Jones takes over that title.
12 WORST: LT Sam Baker - 2008
In 2008 the Atlanta Falcons had two first round picks. Their first one was QB Matt Ryan who panned out pretty well, but their second one not too much. With the 21st pick in the draft, they decided to protect Matt Ryan’s blind side with a left tackle: Sam Baker out of USC. When offensive lineman go in the first round of a draft they usually are the safest bet, but that was not the case for Baker. Once again, it wasn’t so much his talent, but his career was hurt by the injury bug. He was only able to play in eight games as a rookie, but bounced back in 2009 and 2010. Then in 2011, the injury bug struck again allowing him to start just five games. By 2013, he was down to just four games and in 2014 he never earned a start. Baker has been out of the game since 2014 and we most likely won’t ever see him strap on the pads again.
11 BEST: QB Michael Vick - 2001
The first overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft was a man who would change the quarterback position forever. Michael Vick, out of Virginia Tech, was a duel threat QB who could beat you with not only his arm, but his legs as well. They used to call him a human cheat code in video games because of his speed and his elusiveness for being a quarterback. Vick rushed for 6,109 yards in his career, more than half of them with the Falcons. He also scored 36 touchdowns on the ground and has at least one run of 20 or more yards in every season he’s played, including a career-best 61-yarder in 2013 with the Eagles. The 4 time Pro Bowler has just retired this week, but will go down as one of the most fun quarterbacks to watch in league history.
10 WORST: DT Peria Jerry - 2009
Well, the Falcons first round pick in 2009 only had a 5 year career, so that says a lot just right there. Peria Jerry was drafted 24th overall in 2009 out of Mississippi to play defensive tackle for Atlanta. It didn’t take long to figure out he was a bust. He played in just two games as a rookie and did not make another start until his third year in the league. His NFL career was shortened due to injury, but that is still a reason to be considered a bust in this business. In his five seasons with the Falcons he only had 51 tackles and 5.5 sacks while only starting in 29 games out of the 64 games he could have.
9 BEST: QB Matt Ryan - 2008
The 2016 NFL Most Valuable Player, Matt Ryan. “Matty Ice” was drafted in the first round by Atlanta back in 2008 and has been their franchise QB ever since. In his eight seasons he has only missed two games, which came back in his second season. His numbers in his eight years in the NFL are pretty good as he has thrown for over 37,000 yards and tossed 240 touchdowns. Ryan is one of those guys you want on your team because he is a gamer and will do anything to pull out a win. He has been named to 4 Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro selection in 2016 on top of his MVP award. The most important position on a football team is their quarterback, and the Falcons grabbed a gem back in 2008.
8 WORST: WR Michael Jenkins - 2004
The 29th overall selection in the 2004 NFL Draft the Falcons took wide receiver Michael Jenkins out of Ohio State. After landing DeAngelo Hall earlier in the first round of the 2004 draft the Falcons were primed to take full advantage of the ‘04 Draft until they took Michael Jenkins. Safe to say Jenkins didn’t turn out to be what the Falcons had hoped he would. In his 9 year career, 7 of them being for Atlanta, he played in 130 games, but only started in 79 of those. He finished his tenure in the NFL with 354 receptions for 4427 yards and 25 touchdowns. It is not like Jenkins was a player who never played; he just was not a first round talent, which is why he is a first round bust.
7 BEST: WR Julio Jones - 2011
The 6th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Julio Jones has been as good as they come. The WR out of Alabama had major hype coming out of college, and everyone in the world can see why. The 6’3 monster who wears number eleven for the Falcons is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL today. His size, quickness, and athleticism give him an advantage over anybody who tries to cover him. He has been named to the Pro Bowl four times in his six years in the league and has been an All-Pro selection two of those seasons. In his six seasons playing for Atlanta, Jones has hauled in 497 catches for 7,610 yards and 40 touchdowns. The man can do it all, but he has been hit with a few injuries in his 6 seasons, so if he stays away from the injury bug he could go down as one of the best wide receivers of all-time.
6 WORST: DE Jamaal Anderson - 2007
As the 2007 NFL Draft was approaching the Atlanta Falcons knew they needed a pass rusher, so that is what they addressed in the first round of the draft. With the 8th overall pick the Falcons selected defensive end Jamaal Anderson out of Nebraska and thought their problem was fixed, but they were wrong. In his first season in the NFL he started all 16 games which is good right? Yes, but he failed to record a sack. As a top 10 selection in the draft, the Falcons didn’t get a single sack out of Anderson in 16 games. In 2008, he got 15 starts where he recorded two sacks. In 2009, he started 13 times with just one-half of a sack. These numbers weren’t good enough for head coach Mike Smith as he simply just gave up on him and made him a backup. In his 5 year career he recorded a total of 7.5 sacks, after being a top 10 draft pick in 2007.
5 BEST: RB Gerald Riggs - 1982
The first round pick for the Falcons in 1982, which came from Arizona State, Gerald Riggs did not disappoint. Riggs is Atlanta’s all -time leader in rush yards with 6,631 after spending seven seasons with them. He was a 3-time Pro Bowl and selection in his 10 year career and has a Super Bowl ring, with the Washington Redskins, to add to his resume. His best years came in Atlanta between 1984-1986, as he ran for 4,532 yards and had 32 rushing touchdowns in those 3 seasons. The Falcons have had some good running backs come through Atlanta so holding the all-time rushing title is a major accomplishment. Riggs ended his career with 8,188 rushing yards and 69 rushing touchdowns while adding 201 receptions for 1,516 receiving yards.
4 WORST: DB Bruce Pickens - 1991
In the 1991 NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons selected the corner back out of Nebraska, Bruce Pickens. The Falcons at this time had Deion Sanders in their secondary so by taking Pickens they had planned to have the best one-two punch, pertaining to corner backs, in the NFL. Well that plan failed miserably. Pickens didn’t start his career how the Falcons had planned, getting involved in a lawsuit with his own player representation and threatening to sue the Atlanta Falcons. After playing just seven games as a rookie, his career year of 1992 included four starts, two interceptions and zero passed defended. In 1993 the Falcons had enough and cut him, he was picked up by Green Bay, but didn’t perform there either. In his four-year NFL career, Bruce Pickens made a grand total of nine starts with two interceptions.
3 BEST: DB Deion Sanders - 1989
Deion Sanders is the best DB to ever play the game and he has the statistics to back that up. The 5th overall draft pick out of Florida State in 1989 ended up being one of the best picks the Falcons have ever had. Sanders only played five years in Atlanta before playing for the Cowboys, 49ers, Redskins, and Ravens. “Prime Time” is a two time Super Bowl champ, while also being an eight time Pro Bowler and a 6 time All Pro selection. In his 14 years in the NFL he racked up 53 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries. His resume speaks for itself and that is why he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011. Safe to say the Falcons made the right selection with their first round pick in ’89.
2 WORST: LB Aundray Bruce - 1988
When you are a team’s first round pick and don’t pan out that’s one thing, but being the first overall pick of a draft and not panning out is a whole different story. Aundray Bruce was a linebacker out of Auburn, selected by the Falcons as the first pick of the 1988 draft. He totaled 264 tackles in 11 seasons which averages out to 24 tackles a season, as a linebacker. Atlanta passed on a couple of player you may have heard of in Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe, and Michael Irvin who all ended up in the Hall of Fame. In Bruce’s 11 year career he ended up only starting in 41 games out of his 151 games he was a part of and 29 of those starts came in his first two seasons. I’m sure Atlanta was kicking themselves for many years after seeing Bruce’s career play out.
1 BEST: DB DeAngelo Hall - 2004
DeAngelo Hall, out of Virginia Tech, was taken in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Hall has been named to three Pro Bowls in his career, with being named the Pro Bowl MVP in 2010. The last couple of years he has been dealing with injuries which have limited him as he has only played in 17 games in the last 3 seasons, but he has had a very successful career in the NFL. In his 13 seasons in the NFL he has 43 interceptions. He has played for three teams in his years in the league, the Falcons, Raiders, and the Redskins. He is not getting any younger though, so if another injury were to happen next season, that might be the last we see of DeAngelo Hall.
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