Since Thomas Dimitroff took over in Atlanta, the Falcons have made 13 first-round picks. Some of them have been superstars and others you may not recognize. Unfortunately, there have been more downs than ups, but we’ll dive into how the foundation of this roster was built leading up to the draft. Chase has you covered with the 2nd round picks, and I’ll be doing the 3rd while trading off.
13. OT, Sam Baker (2010)
Baker was Atlanta’s first-round choice out of USC in 2010. His father is the president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame — David Baker (one enormous human being). Selected at 21, the man responsible for blocking for Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush during USC’s golden years had Falcons fans very excited. The once Freshman All-American could only be described as a disappointment due to an injury-riddled career. Baker played in just two full seasons over six years. During the 2014 preseason, he tore his right patella tendon in his knee, was released by the Falcons, and never played again.
12. DT, Peria Jerry (2009)
Jerry was another guy who just seemed like a home run prospect. An All-SEC defensive tackle out of Ole Miss, taken at pick 24, he filled a massive need. However, like Baker, Jerry had injury issues of his own. He was never the same after tearing up his knee in his rookie season, notching 5.5 sacks until he retired in 2014.
11. LB, Sean Weatherspoon (2010)
It pains me to put Weatherspoon this low. One of the best players the University of Missouri has ever had, he was a big part of their rise to prominence in the late 2000s. Weatherspoon didn’t do much his rookie season, but shined in 2011 and was effective in 2012. Like the guys before him, disaster struck in 2013, and he missed ten games due to injury and all of 2014 with a ruptured Achilles. He had a second stint with Atlanta from 2016-2017 after a short stop in Arizona, but was never a reliable starter and retired after 2017.
10. OT, Kaleb McGary (2019)
Kaleb will be much higher on this list after he gets some more reps. He showed he had chops after putting Cam Jordan in Alcatraz during their first matchup in 2019 (we won’t talk about Thanksgiving). McGary played a lot better than I expected this season, and if he can stay healthy after a worrisome start, he has the opportunity to be a premier right tackle in this league.
9. EDGE, Takk McKinley (2017)
Maybe I hold some petty resentment towards Takk. I was screaming at my TV, for now, two-time Pro Bowler T.J. Watt, when McKinley’s name was called. Is it unreasonable for me to compare them now? Nah, I like bragging about being right. Takk hasn’t been bad; 2019 could have been MUCH better, and there are rumors the club is not going to pick up his 5th-year option. McKinley has 16.5 career sacks over 45 games but creates a decent amount of pressure that isn’t seen on the stat sheet. Still, I’d take TJ Watt and his 34.5 sacks in 47 games. Thanks Dimitroff…
8. EDGE, Vic Beasley (2015)
Oh, Vic Beasley. Vic, Vic, Vic. If this list were “most frustrating players of the TD era,” you’d be my darling #1 golden child. The #8 selection out of Clemson in 2015, Beasley has been marred by inconsistency. After a 15.5 sack explosion in his sophomore season, he’s had sack totals of 5, 5, and 8. Beasley’s effort and love for football has been questioned since his collegiate days. He has 37.5 career sacks in 78 games and was not worth the 5th year option exercised on him last season. After Dan Quinn notoriously said he wanted to get a lot of work in with him this offseason, Beasley skipped OTAs. He’s a low effort “me first” guy, and I’m glad he’s out of Atlanta.
7. G, Chris Lindstrom (2019)
I liked what I saw out of Chris Lindstrom in 2019, and there’s a reason Atlanta spent their #14 pick on him when there were some seriously talented edge rushers available. Injuries have plagued him, and as long as those don’t become a trend, Lindstrom will be an anchor on the interior of this Falcons offensive line for many years to come.
6. S, Keanu Neal (2016)
Keanu is the anti-Vic Beasley. When he’s on the field, he’s a vicious thumper that gives his all for the team. However, this is as high as I can go for a player who’s had two significant injuries the past two seasons. I love Keanu. I will admit, this pick made me scratch my head at first, but he was a home run in a 2016 draft that was probably the best for Atlanta since 2008. This next season will be a crossroads in Neal’s career; he’s coming off one of the worst injuries a player can have, and a move to linebacker may be the solution.
5. WR, Calvin Ridley (2018)
I loved this pick when Atlanta made it, and I still do. Ridley is going to be a spot or two higher on this list before it’s all said and done. He was not the most glaring need the team had in 2018, but Ridley has proven to be the correct one. It also allowed the Falcons to trade Mohammed Sanu for a second-round pick.
4. CB, Desmond Trufant (2013)
Even though it was sad to see Trufant go this offseason, it was time. You could argue that Ridley should be ahead of him on this list, but I’m taking Trufant due to his tenure (for now). He was sorely missed during Atlanta’s Super Bowl loss, but Tru was always reliable from year to year. He was a leader on defense and made a Pro Bowl in 2015. I’ll miss him, but business is business. We’ll likely be selecting his replacement early in the 2020 draft.
3. LT, Jake Matthews (2014)
Offensive linemen never receive a lot of love, but Jake Matthews has been rock solid. The Falcons picked him 6th overall after a putrid 2013 season, and thankfully he was much better than #2 selection Greg Robinson. Matthews has been a stabilizer for this offensive line since and has only missed one career game during his rookie season. He consistently grades out as one of the best tackles by PFF and is undoubtedly the most overlooked and underappreciated guy on our offense.
2. WR, Julio Jones (2011)
There’s likely to be some disagreement over this one. Julio Jones’ took a boatload of picks to acquire Cleveland’s 6th selection (which they promptly all wasted). Jones has the highest receiving YPG in NFL History. He’s the fastest to 7,000 – 12,000 yards receiving in NFL history and has the most receiving yards in NFL history through his first 100 games. Jones has put 250+ yards on three teams, including 300 on the division rival Panthers. He’s a first-ballot inductee to Canton and the best player this franchise has ever had. You know what he isn’t though? A franchise QB. That makes all the difference in the world.
1. QB, Matt Ryan (2008)
Probably the most disrespected player in the NFL, with enough false narratives surrounding him to write a book, Matt Ryan IS the Atlanta Falcons. The 2nd highest QBR in the playoffs (yes, ahead of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson) and the highest passer rating EVER in a Super Bowl, Ryan has gotten it done in big games time after time. He was let down in the Super Bowl, but anyone with a brain knows that wasn’t his fault. The 2016 MVP has thrown for over 4,000 yards every season since 2011 and is easily the best QB this franchise has ever seen. Ryan is the fastest player in the NFL to 40,000 yards and has the most yards ever through 11 seasons. He’s only missed three career games to boot. Ryan currently stands 10th all-time in yards and 11th in TDs — he’ll move into 10th before 2020 is over. He’s another first-ballot Hall of Famer, and anyone who thinks he’s the problem in Atlanta needs to find a new team. Ryan gets the nod over Julio because it’s so difficult to hit on a franchise QB, and the Falcons didn’t have to give up anything to get him.