Draft Rewind – Atlanta Falcons

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With the NFL draft rapidly approaching, let’s take a look back at each team’s hits and misses over the past 25 years.

FIVE BEST PICKS

I went back and forth on whether to include future Hall of Famer Brett Favre on this list. Ultimately I didn’t, for two reasons: Jerry Glanville was against drafting Favre in the 2nd round in 1991 and once stated it would take a plane crash for him to put Favre into the game; although the Falcons did acquire a 1st round pick (#19 overall) from Green Bay for Favre, they wasted it (more on that later).

1. Deion Sanders, CB, Florida St. 1st round, # 5 overall in 1989.

Four of the first five picks in this draft were HOFers (sorry Packer fans), and the Falcons obviously nailed this with a generational CB. Ballhawk, shutdown corner, playmaker, special teams ace, entertainer, and seemingly a hundred more adjectives.

2. Jamal Anderson, RB, Utah. 7th round, #201 overall in 1994.
The face of the 1998 NFC Champion Falcons, Anderson held the NFL record for carries in a season (410) for a few years and his numbers that year were impressive – 2165 yds from scrimmage and 16 total TDs. Could have done without the Dirty Bird though.

3. Ephraim Salaam, OT, San Diego St. 7th round, #199 overall in 1998.
Solid tackle that played 159 games over 13 years. Super Bowl starter as a 22 year-old rookie. Currently works at Fox Sports as an NFL analyst.

4. Michael Haynes, WR, Northern Arizona. 7th round, #166 overall in 1988.
Led the league in yards per-catch in 1991 (22.4), and had a four-year stretch in which he was one of the top deep-threats in the NFL. Teamed with Andre Rison and Mike Pritchard in OC June Jones’ Run & Shoot offense.

5. Todd McClure, C, Louisiana St. 7th rd, # 237 overall.
Dependable and durable, McClure started 195 of the 198 games he played in the league. He also managed to play in every game in 10 of his 13 NFL seasons. Falcons owner Arthur Blank announced in 2013 that McClure would be a future member of the team’s Ring of Honor.

FIVE WORST PICKS

1. Aundray Bruce, DE, Auburn. 1st round, #1 overall in 1988.
If there was a Mt. Rushmore of NFL draft busts, Bruce’s mug would be on it. Although Bruce collected checks for 11 NFL seasons, he was a rotational lineman at best. 13 of the other 19 top-20 picks became Pro Bowlers, and the draft class produced four future HOFers.

2. Bruce Pickens, CB, Nebraska. 1st round, #3 overall in 1991.
Atlanta was at it again three years later, this time at #3 overall. Pickens held out until October his rookie year, was garbage when he finally got on the field, and was out of the league by 1995. The Falcons were enamored by his 4.4 speed, and ignored the fact that Pickens rarely played against passing offenses in the Big 8. The Rams took future Pro Bowler Todd Lyght with the next pick.

3. Tony Smith, RB, Southern Mississippi. 1st round, #19 overall in 1992.
87 carries, 9 fumbles, and a few kick returns. Thats what Atlanta got in return for the pick they used in the aforementioned Favre trade. This was a really bad draft class overall, especially at the RB position. However, the next pick was future All-Pro corner Dale Carter and there was also a functional Pickens on the board (future Pro Bowl WR Carl). As a side note, Smith was Favre’s teammate back at their days at Southern Miss.

4. Michael Booker, CB, Nebraska. 1st round, #11 overall in 1997.
The Falcons decided to roll the dice again on another Cornhusker corner in the 1st round six years after the Pickens disaster; this time they were enamored with size (6-2, 200). Booker started ten games in three years, and was dreadful. He was out of the league by 2002. Fellow corners Chad Scott, Chris Canty, Dexter McCleon, Sam Madison, and Mike Logan were drafted after Booker and had solid careers.

5. Shawn Collins, WR, Northern Arizona. 1st round, #27 overall in 1989.
Atlanta struck late-round gold the year before with a N. Arizona wideout (Haynes) and went back to the well again, picking Lumberjack Collins in the first round. FAIL. In lieu of developing late, he was decent his first two years and then fell off the NFL map. He did win a championship, though; Collins’ Frankfurt Galaxy won World Bowl III.

Stats courtesy or pro-football-reference.com

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