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Alive at 55


The Falcons find themselves heading into the 2012 NFL Draft season without a first-round pick, traded in the draft-day deal last season to acquire the opportunity to draft Julio Jones, but there's no panic in Atlanta's front office.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff recently said the knowledge of not having a first-round pick has been with him and his staff since the beginning of the season and they've scouted and prepared appropriately with that knowledge. Dimitroff and his staff are panic-free because of their due diligence, but another reason should be because of the history of the players available at No. 55, the spot where the Falcons will select first in round two.

The Falcons aren't strangers to selecting at No. 55; they've done it twice in the previous nine drafts. Both times they landed a player that went on to start for the franchise, including 2009's selection of William Moore, the team's current promising young safety, drafted by Dimitroff.

In 2003, then-GM Rich McKay, now the team's president and CEO, drafted Penn State defensive back Bryan Scott. Scott spent three years with the Falcons, playing in 47 games and starting 35 of them.

The recent history of the 55th pick has been especially promising, proving that the Falcons can land another starter and impact player in the second round.

Last season, the Chiefs selected Rodney Hudson, an offensive lineman from Florida State that played in every game, starting one. In his rookie season, he provided depth for Kansas City and he's projected as a starting caliber guard and potentially center.

In 2010, the Dallas Cowboys picked linebacker Sean Lee from Penn State. Lee emerged as a starter this season and played solid football, with his highlight being the four interceptions he accumulated. He's regarded as one of the better young inside linebackers in the NFL after just two seasons.

The 2008 selection by the Ravens demonstrates just how much talent is still in the middle of the second round for teams with solid front offices. Baltimore selected running back Ray Rice at the pick and he's gone on to become an elite running back in the league. In his last three seasons, he's topped 1,000 yards and he's twice had over 700 yards receiving.

Other highlights in recent drafts at No. 55 include the Cincinnati Bengals' selection of Andrew Whitworth in 2006 and the Seahawks' pick of Josh Wilson in 2007. Whitworth has become one of the premier left tackles and has started 50 consecutive games for the Bengals. While Wilson has played for three teams in his five seasons, he's still considered a solid cornerback and has 11 career interceptions to prove it.

There are never any guarantees in the draft, but for an Atlanta front office with the track record that they currently have, the Falcons should find themselves in a positive position as they select their first player in the draft at No. 55.

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