With the Falcons rebuilding under a new regime that has gutted the roster they inherited, we are beginning a new era in franchise history. Arthur Blank has hired his sixth head coach in Arthur Smith and third general manager in Terry Fontenot. While the Falcons look to build a consistent winner, it’s the perfect time to reflect back on the success of former regimes, which all begins in the draft. Here’s my list of the top 10 best Atlanta Falcons draft picks of the last 25 years:
10. DeAngelo Hall
Hall’s tenure in Atlanta was short, only playing four seasons with the Falcons before being traded. But he was one of the league’s better corners during that time, making two Pro Bowls, intercepting 17 passes, and housing four of those for scores.
Jake Matthews might not have the Pro Bowl numbers like some others on this list. Still, he’s been voted to one, and his string of starts alone could have him higher. The ironman left tackle has missed only one game since entering the league, and it came in his rookie season. At the time of this writing, that is 140 starts out of a possible 141. And at a premium position like left tackle, Matthews has an argument for being higher.
Jarrett has been dominant in 2022; it might be his best season as a pro. Jarrett is the most recent draft pick of the bunch, but I believe he could be in the top five when he hangs up his cleats. Jarrett has made two Pro Bowls and racked up 32 sacks with a career-high 7.5 in 2019, and he’s on pace to eclipse that mark in 2022.
Crumpler was one of my favorite Falcons growing up, and I didn’t even realize how many Pro Bowls he went to before looking — four straight from 2003-06. The big tight end logged nearly 3,000 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns over that period, which is even more impressive considering how run-dominant offenses were back then.
Initially, I was going to do the best draft picks since 2000, but when I started looking, these next two Falcons were right on the cusp, so I expanded the range to the last 25 years. Brooking was drafted in 1998 and went to five straight Pro Bowls from 2001-2005, in which he logged 514 tackles, an average of over 100 tackles per season.
5. Todd McClure
McClure never made a Pro Bowl, but he’s an all-time Falcons great and was recently inducted into the team’s ring of honor. He’s one of my personal favorites because we both went to LSU, and he was a seventh-round pick. McClure was the team’s ironman before Matthews, starting 195 games over 13 NFL seasons, setting a franchise record for 144 straight starts between 2001-2010.
4. Roddy White
White is also a member of the Falcons Ring of Honor, and it’s easy to see why. He spent his entire career in Atlanta, earning four straight trips to the Pro Bowl, including one All-Pro season in 2010 in which he posted 1,389 yards and ten touchdowns on 115 receptions. White is the all-time leader in touchdowns and second in yards.
3. Michael Vick
Mike Vick revolutionized the quarterback position. Everyone remembers the Michael Vick Experience; he was my first favorite player and many kids’ idol for a long time. Off-the-field issues aside, Vick was incredibly entertaining and did some inhuman things in a Falcons uniform. He was voted to three Pro Bowls during his tenure with the Falcons, in which he posted a 38-28-1 record.
2. Julio Jones
Julio Jones is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and Matt Ryan isn’t. So, I could understand an argument for Jones being No. 1 on this list. He was the best player at his position for nearly a decade, something Ryan could never say. Jones is the Falcons all-time receiving leader, having been voted to seven Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. His career faded quickly due to injuries, but when he was healthy, there was nobody better in football from 2014 to 2019.
1. Matt Ryan
Quarterbacks are just more important to a team’s overall success. Matt Ryan will never have the resumé that Jones does in terms of accolades, but he’s the best signal caller in team history. He led the Falcons out of despair following the Vick fallout and led them to calmer waters for over a decade. Ryan owns every single franchise passing record and is one of the most polarizing cases for the Hall of Fame. Some believe he’s a shoo-in and others digress. This isn’t the time for that, but for now, he’s not only the best Falcons draft pick in the last 25 years but all time as well.