FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today’s Early Bird Report includes the best trade in Falcons’ draft history as well as the best draft pick Atlanta has ever made.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has a penchant for making trades. In fact, he’s made a trade in every single draft since coming to Atlanta in 2008.
Dimitroff is responsible for what ESPN’s Vaughn McClure believes is the most impactful draft-day trade in Falcons history. In 2011, Dimitroff traded five draft picks to move from No. 27 to No. 6 in the draft and selected wide receiver Julio Jones.
“Maybe it sounded like a crazy idea at the time, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff's gamble paid off when Jones developed into arguably the best wide receiver in the game,” McClure writes. “Meanwhile, none of the players the Browns acquired as a result of those draft picks -- Phil Taylor, Greg Little, Brandon Weeden, Owen Marecic and Trent Richardson -- is currently in the league. Safe to say the Falcons won the trade.”
Jones has become one of the best receivers in the NFL, breaking numerous records and on pace to break many more. While the trade seemed very ambitious at the time, the Falcons ended up with one of the most gifted receivers in league history.
To see what else ESPN’s writers tabbed as the most impactful draft-day trades, click here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
CBS Sports: The best draft pick in each NFL team’s history
The Falcons have drafted some really good players in recent years, with guys like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Deion Jones coming to mind. But CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin doesn’t view any of the three just mentioned as Atlanta’s best draft pick in franchise history. That honor, Benjamin believes, belongs to none other than Deion Sanders.
“In a year or two, it might be impossible to vouch for a guy who played just five years in Atlanta as opposed to, say, Julio Jones, who's already racked up 10,000 career receiving yards and 80-plus touchdowns,” Benjamin writes. “But Deion is Deion, and even if he won his Super Bowls and made his money elsewhere, he was the face of the Falcons' 1990s defense. With 10 total touchdowns for Atlanta from 1989-1993, he was a true threat to change the game whenever he took the field. He also helped the Falcons snap an eight-year playoff drought.”
To see the top draft picks for all 31 other NFL teams, click here.
AJC: Dimitroff, Quinn putting finishing touches on draft
In less than a week, the 2019 NFL Draft takes place in Nashville. The even marks the culmination of years of scouting work done by NFL teams, but that work is largely complete at this point.
Speaking with the media on Thursday, Falcons coach Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff provided an update on where things stand in their draft approach. After the free agency moves the team has made, Dimitroff says he feels good about where the Falcons stand entering the draft.
“It’s a very collaborative group, with the coaches and the scouts,” Dimitroff said. “We’ve run all kinds of comparatives and have a really good feel for who is going to be a good fit for our team and who’s going to contribute early.”
D. Orlando Ledbetter wrote about this topic in greater detail for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which you can read here.
NFL.com: 2018 NFL Draft do-over
It’s much easier to reflect back on previous drafts with the benefit of hindsight than it is to predict what will happen in the upcoming draft, which is perhaps why so many people dabble in draft do-overs. NFL.com’s Adam Rank did just that, re-drafting the 2018 draft with a season’s-worth of information to call upon.
Calvin Ridley went earlier in Rank’s re-draft, landing with the Buffalo Bills at pick No. 22. The Falcons opted to go defense with Ridley off the board, selecting former N.C. State defensive tackle B.J. Hill.
“The Falcons' defense was wrecked last year,” Rank writes. “They couldn't stop anybody. Hill was pretty good during his rookie season, finishing with 5.5 sacks.”
Hill started 12 games for the New York Giants in 2018, recording 48 tackles, six tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. To read the rest of Rank’s NFL Draft do-over, click here.
ESPN: Breaking down the Falcons’ 2019 schedule
The Falcons’ 2019 schedule was released Wednesday night, and it offers a couple of important stretches. Atlanta has a tough run right at the start, playing a number of recent playoff teams, and the Falcons will play five straight division opponents after their Week 9 bye.
ESPN’s Vaughn McClure gave his game-by-game predictions for the Falcons, who he believes will go 10-6, and other thoughts about the 2019 schedule.
“The Falcons don't exactly have it easy with six of the first nine games against 2018 playoff teams and four of the first six games on the road, starting with a season-opening trip to face the Minnesota Vikings,” McClure writes. “They won't even play a division game until visiting the rival New Orleans Saints on Nov. 10, a week after the bye. That matchup marks the start of a critical five-game NFC South stretch, ending with a Thanksgiving night affair at home against Drew Brees and the Saints. At least the Falcons get to play indoors for eight home games and four road games at Minnesota, Indianapolis, Houston and Arizona. Playing four of the last six at home paves the way for a strong finish.”
To read the rest of McClure’s analysis of the schedule, click here.