Last week, NFL.com's Elliot Harrison ranked the best defenders to ever play for each NFC team, and while the Falcons had three great bruisers to choose from, Harrison went with a flashier choice: Deion Sanders.
"Sanders not only changed the position — he made the Falcons good television. He also lifted the squad to the playoffs in 1991 for the first time in almost a decade, making the Pro Bowl while taking a kick and a pick to the house — something neither (Claude) Humphrey nor Tommy Nobis could ever do," Harrison wrote.
"This is the rare instance where I take a guy who spent a relatively short time with the team (five seasons for Deion in Atlanta) over a longtime franchise stalwart."
During a half-decade with the Falcons, Sanders tallied a whopping 24 interceptions — three of which resulted in touchdowns — seven forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries five kick/punt return TDs. "Primetime" also played for San Francisco, Dallas, Washington and Baltimore, winning two Super Bowls in the process.
Arguments can be made that the aforementioned Humphrey and Nobis, along with Jessie Tuggle, were deserving of the top spot. Humphrey spent 10 years as an Atlanta defensive end, earning six Pro Bowl nominations, five First-Team All-Pro nods and the 1968 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
Nobis, also known as Mr. Falcon, made five Pro Bowls during his 11 seasons in Atlanta. The hard-hitting linebacker was the organization's first draft pick (No. 1 overall in 1966) and in many eyes is worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame.
While Nobis was a top prospect out of college, Tuggle, another linebacker, enjoyed a lot of success despite going undrafted in 1987. He made five Pro Bowls with Atlanta and helped lead the 1998 team to an NFC Championship, finishing his career with 1,640 tackles, 21 sacks and six interceptions. No one in the NFL registered more tackles from 1990-99 than him (1,293).