13. OT, Sam Baker (2010)
Baker was Atlanta’s first choice for USC in 2010. His father is the president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame – David Baker (a huge human being). Selected at 21, the man responsible for blocking Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush during the golden years of the USC delighted fans of the Falcons. The former Freshman All-American could only be described as disappointment due to an injury-ridden career. Baker has played in just two full seasons over six years. During the 2014 preseason, he tore his tendon in his right kneecap, was released by the Falcons and never played again.
12. DT, Peria Jerry (2009)
Jerry was another guy who seemed to be a home candidate. An All-SEC defensive tackle from Ole Miss, picked at choice 24, he fulfilled a huge need. However, like Baker, Jerry had his own injury issues. He was never the same after tearing his knee during his rookie season, notched 5.5 bags until his retirement in 2014.
11. LB, Sean Weatherspoon (2010)
It pains me to put Weatherspoon so low. One of the best players the University of Missouri has ever had, he played an important role in their rise in the late 2000s. Weatherspoon did little in his rookie season, but shone 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 the whole of 2014 with an Achilles break. He had a second run with Atlanta from 2016 to 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 getting more reps. He showed he had chops after putting Cam Jordan to Alcatraz in their first game in 2019 (we’re not talking about Thanksgiving). McGary has played much better than I have expected this season, and if he can stay healthy after a troubling start, he has the potential to be a first straight tackle in this league.
9. EDGE, Takk McKinley (2017)
Maybe I have a little resentment towards Takk. I was screaming on my TV, for now, twice Pro Bowler T.J. Watt, when McKinley’s name was called. Is it unreasonable for me to compare them now? No, I like to brag about being right. Takk was not mean; 2019 could have been MUCH better, and there are rumors that the club is not going to pick up his 5th grade option. McKinley has 16.5 career sacks in 45 games, but is creating a decent amount of pressure that is not visible on the statistics sheet. However, I would take TJ Watt and his 34.5 bags in 47 games. Thank you Dimitroff…
8. EDGE, Vic Beasley (2015)
Oh, Vic Beasley. Vic, Vic, Vic. If this list were “the most frustrating players in the TD era”, you would be my # 1 darling golden child. Cleason’s No. 8 selection in 2015, Beasley was marred by inconsistency. After an explosion of 15.5 sacks in his second season, he had a total of 5, 5 and 8 sacks. Beasley’s efforts and love for football have been questioned since his college days. He has 37.5 career sacks in 78 games and was not worth the 5th year option exercised over him last season. After Dan Quinn notoriously said he wanted to work with him a lot during the offseason, Beasley omitted the OTAs. He’s a low-effort guy, “me first,” and I’m glad he’s out of Atlanta.
7. G, Chris Lindstrom (2019)
I liked what I saw of Chris Lindstrom in 2019, and there is a reason why Atlanta spent his # 14 pick on him when there were some really talented tip rushers. Injury has plagued him, and as long as it doesn’t become a trend, Lindstrom will be an anchor inside this Falcons offensive line for many years to come.
6. S, Keanu Neal (2016)
Keanu is anti-Vic Beasley. When he’s on the field, he’s a vicious drummer who gives everything for the team. However, it is as high as possible for a player who has suffered two major injuries in the past two seasons. I love Keanu. I must admit that this choice made me scratch my head at first, but it was a homerun in a 2016 draft which was probably the best for Atlanta since 2008. This next season will be a crossroads in Neal’s career ; it comes from one of the worst injuries a player can have, and a go to linebacker may be the solution.
5. WR, Calvin Ridley (2018)
I loved this choice when Atlanta made it, and I still love it. Ridley is going to be a place or two higher on this list before all is said and done. He was not the team’s most dire need in 2018, but Ridley turned out to be the right one. It also allowed the Falcons to trade Mohammed Sanu for a second-round pick.
4. CB, Desmond Trufant (2013)
Even if it was sad to see Trufant leaving in low season, it was time. You could say that Ridley should be ahead of him on this list, but I’m taking Trufant because of his tenure (for now). He was greatly missed in the Atlanta Super Bowl loss, but Tru has always been reliable year after year. He was a defense leader and did a Pro Bowl in 2015. I will miss him, but business is business. We will probably select his replacement at the start of the 2020 draft.
3. LT, Jake Matthews (2014)
Offensive liners never get much love, but Jake Matthews was rock solid. The Falcons picked him 6th overall after a putrid 2013 season, and luckily he was much better than # 2 Greg Robinson. Matthews has been a stabilizer for this offensive line ever since and has missed just one career game in his rookie season. He is regularly ranked as one of the best tackles by PFF and is undoubtedly the most overlooked and least appreciated guy in our attack.
2. WR, Julio Jones (2011)
There will likely be some disagreement on this one. Julio Jones took a cargo of choice to acquire the 6th selection from Cleveland (which they all wasted quickly). Jones has the highest receiving YPG in NFL history. He’s the fastest (7,000 – 12,000 yards) in NFL history and has had the most yards in NFL history in his first 100 games. Jones put more than 250 yards on three teams, including 300 on the Panthers division rival. He was inducted in Canton the first round and the best player this franchise has ever had. Do you know what it is not? A QB franchise. It makes all the difference in the world.
1. QB, Matt Ryan (2008)
Probably the most disrespectful player in the NFL, with enough false stories 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 best all-time passer in a Super Bowl, Ryan has done it in big games every time. He was dropped in the Super Bowl, but anyone with a brain knows it was not his fault. The 2016 MVP has launched more than 4,000 yards each season since 2011 and is by far the best QB this franchise has ever seen. Ryan is the fastest player in the NFL with 40,000 yards and the most yards ever in 11 seasons. He only missed three career games. Ryan is currently 10th overall in yards and 11th in TD – he will move to 10th before the end of 2020. This is another Hall of Famer in the first round, and anyone who thinks it’s the problem at Atlanta must find a new team. Ryan gets the green light on Julio because it’s so hard to hit a franchise QB, and the Falcons didn’t have to give up anything to get it back.