The definitive top five draft classes in Falcons history

DraftClasses

The Atlanta Falcons began their first season of play in 1966, which means they have participated in 52 NFL Drafts throughout their existence. That’s a lot of drafts.

RELATED CONTENT

With the way the NFL is currently structured, drafting well has never been more important. But the draft has always been a big factor in a team’s success or failures in the NFL.

A bad draft could set back a team’s development and growth, while a good draft can set a team up for several years of good fortune. A couple of great drafts, however, can set the stage for a potential dynasty.

With the NFL Draft just around the corner (the first round kicks off on April 25), it’s time to take a look back and determine the five best draft classes in Falcons’ history.

Van Note

5. Falcons’ 1969 Draft Class

The argument for:

Table inside Article
Best player Eventual starters Combined Pro Bowls Pro Bowlers First-team All-Pros
Jeff Van Note 6 16 3 1

The 1969 NFL Draft was the best for the Falcons up to that point in their existence. Atlanta drafted George Kunz, who was a six-year starter for the Falcons and a five-time Pro Bowler in that time, with the second-overall pick. In the fourth round the team drafted Pro Bowl tight end Jim Mitchell, and in the 11th round Atlanta selected a franchise standout, Jeff Van Note. The combined wins for players in this draft class during their time in Atlanta was 235, an average contribution of 26 wins for the players who made the active roster.

The argument against:

Table inside Article
Class size Playoff wins Playoff losses Players who played five-plus years with Falcons
19 1 3 3

In the early days of the NFL Draft, there were many more rounds. In fact, there were 17 rounds in 1969. Obviously, this allowed teams to draft many more players and increased the possibility of finding multiple starters, especially in the pre-salary cap era. But despite drafting 19 players in 1969, only three of them last five or more seasons in Atlanta. The 1969 class was represented in four Falcons playoff games, but it has a 1-3 record in those games.

4. Falcons’ 2016 Draft Class

The argument for:

Table inside Article
Best player Combined Pro Bowls Pro Bowlers Eventual starters Class size Playoff wins Best season
Deion Jones 3 3 5 6 3 Made Super Bowl

Atlanta’s 2016 draft is already turning out to be one of the best in franchise history, and this class has a legitimate opportunity to finish much higher on this list when everything plays out. Falcons owner Arthur Blank publicly stated he wanted the Falcons to get three starters out of this class, and five of the team’s six draft picks became just that. Three players, Austin Hooper, Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, have been named to the Pro Bowl.

The argument against:

Table inside Article
Playoff losses
2

It remains to be seen how Neal recovers from a torn ACL that cost him 15 games in 2018, but there haven’t been much negatives about the 2016 class. The Falcons must decide how to move forward with keeping this class together for the foreseeable future, but it’s been a big part of the team’s recent playoff seasons.

3. Falcons’ 2001 Draft Class

The argument for:

Table inside Article
Best player Combined Pro Bowls Pro Bowlers Eventual starters Players who played five-plus years with Falcons Best season
Michael Vick 8 2 5 3 Made NFC Championship game

In 2001 the Falcons drafted one of the most exciting-to-watch players in league history when they selected Michael Vick with the first-overall pick. It wasn’t just Vick that makes this class such a good one, however. After Vick, Atlanta selected Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler, guard Roberto Garza and linebacker Matt Stewart with its next three picks. All four of those players started multiple seasons for the Falcons. Add in long-time guard Kynan Forney in the seventh round and it’s easy to see why the Falcons reached the NFC Championship Game in 2004.

The argument against:

Table inside Article
Playoff wins Playoff losses First-team All-Pros
2 2 0

While this class was certainly a talented and impactful one for the Falcons, it just wasn’t as impactful as one might think. The Falcons only went to the playoffs twice while players from this draft class were on the roster, and they ultimately lost more games than they won.

2. Falcons’ 2005 Draft Class

The argument for:

Table inside Article
Best player Playoff wins Combined Pro Bowls First-team All-Pros Eventual starters Players who played five-plus years with Falcons Best season
Roddy White 3 4 1 4 3 Made Super Bowl

The Falcons’ 2005 draft class might not have multiple superstars, but it was filled with reliably good-to-great players who spent a decent amount of time in Atlanta. Roddy White was the team’s first pick in this draft, and he ended his career as the best receiver in Falcons’ history – not a bad pick. Just behind White, the Falcons selected a fan-favorite in defensive end Jonathan Babineaux, who was dependable for 12 seasons in Atlanta. Mid-round picks Chauncey Davis and Michael Boley developed into starters for the Falcons.

The argument against:

Table inside Article
Playoff losses Pro Bowlers
5 1

There’s not much to nit-pick when it comes to the Falcons’ 2005 class. The class played a big role in helping the Falcons reach the playoffs five times, and Babineaux’s final season was Atlanta’s 2016 Super Bowl run. Unfortunately, the team didn’t have much success in the postseason during this class’ time.

1. Falcons’ 2008 Draft Class

The argument for:

Table inside Article
Best player Combined Pro Bowls Pro Bowlers First-team All-Pros Playoff wins NFL MVPs Eventual starters Best season
Matt Ryan 5 2 1 4 1 6 Made Super Bowl

The Falcons ushered in their most prosperous era in franchise history when they selected quarterback Matt Ryan. His selection alone would have likely landed this class a spot on this list, but it’s the contributions from others in this draft class that push it to No. 1. Sam Baker, Curtis Lofton, Harry Douglas, Thomas DeCoud and Kroy Biermann all became significant contributors for the Falcons for multiple seasons. This class, led by Ryan, played a large role in the Falcons reaching the playoffs four times in the five years after they were drafted. The Falcons had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in team history in 2008 and 2009. 

The argument against: 

Table inside Article
Playoff losses
6

There are cases to be made that certain individuals from this draft class didn’t pan out the way some expected, but this is the strongest collection of talent the Falcons have procured in one single draft. Yes, the Falcons struggled to win in the postseason early in Ryan’s career, but he got that monkey off his back long ago.

Related Content

Advertising