The Top 5 Players in Atlanta Falcons History
The Atlanta Falcons franchise has been a part of the NFL since 1966 and during their NFL existence, the franchise has showcased elite talent play in the red and black. Here, the five best players to ever play for the Falcons are ranked.
5. Roddy White, Wide Receiver (2005-2015)
Roddy White was drafted in the first round in the 2005 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons out of UAB.
White struggled early on before his breakout season in 2007 when he garnered 83 receptions for 1,202 yards. The next year the Falcons drafted Matt Ryan and that’s when White established himself as one of the NFL’s top receivers.
Ryan and White were one of the best quarterback-receiver duos during that timeframe. In 2008, Ryan’s rookie season, he was named the NFL’s Rookie Offensive Player of the Year and led the Falcons to the postseason and White was a big contributor in that. White garnered 88 catches for 1,382 yards along with averaging 86.4 yards per game that season. It’s fair to say White helped establish Ryan as one of the rising young quarterbacks in the league.
White made four straight pro bowls (’08-’11) while catching passes from Ryan. In 2010, the former Falcons wideout had his best statistical season by tallying 115 receptions (led the league) with 1,389 yards and 10 touchdowns. White was named first-team all-pro in 2010.
The former UAB receiver garnered 10,863 receiving yards (second in franchise history) along with 808 receptions (second in franchise history) in eleven seasons with Atlanta.
4. Julio Jones, Wide Receiver (2011-2020)
Julio Jones is widely recognized as one of the best wideouts throughout the 2010s as a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
Jones was drafted sixth overall in the 2011 NFL draft out of Alabama, where he was arguably the best pass catcher in the nation. Jones measured in at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and became Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s favorite target. Ryan and Jones accumulated 12,744 passing yards and 61 touchdowns in 134 games together.
The former Alabama wideout is a two-time first-team all-pro (’15-’16), three-time second-team all-pro (’17-’19) and a two-time receiving yards leader (’15-’18). Jones’s best statistical season came in 2015 when he garnered 136 catches (led the league) with 1,871 receiving yards (led the league).
Jones is without question the best wide receiver the franchise has ever had and also one of the greatest pass catchers the NFL has ever seen.
3. Michael Vick, Quarterback (2001-2006)
Michael Vick was drafted number one overall in the 2001 NFL draft out of Virginia Tech, and is recognized as one of if not the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks of all time.
During his six-year Atlanta tenure, Vick was a three-time pro-bowler (’02, ’04,’ 05,) and was the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1000 yards in the 2006 season (1,039).
Vick led the Falcons to two playoff appearances (’02,’04), a division title (’04), and an NFC championship game appearance (’04). The former Virginia Tech Hokie became the first Falcons player to grace the cover of Madden for its 2004 edition.
Prior to the 2006 season, Vick pled guilty to his involvement in a dog fighting ring which led him to spend nearly two years in prison. The former number one overall draft pick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the 2009 season and he never played for the Falcons again before retiring in 2017.
Vick will go down as one of the most electrifying athletes ever and he currently holds the record for the most rushing yards for a quarterback with 6,109.
2. Deion Sanders (Defensive Back, Kick Returner, Punt Returner) (1989-1993)
“Prime Time” Deion Sanders comes in as the second greatest player in Atlanta Falcons history even in his short five-year stint with the franchise.
Sanders was known for his swagger off the field, as he exuberated supreme confidence that also translated onto the field. Sanders was drafted fifth overall in the 1989 NFL draft out of Florida State and made an immediate impact in his rookie campaign. In his rookie year, Sanders tallied 5 interceptions and one punt return as a cornerback and returner.
During his tenure in Atlanta, Sanders was a two-time first-team all-pro (’92-’93), second-team all-pro (’91), three-time pro bowler (’91-’93) and the 1992 NFL kickoff return yards leader (1,067).
Sanders is arguably known as the greatest defensive back in NFL history.
1. Matt Ryan, Quarterback, (2008-2021)
Matt Ryan is placed as the greatest Falcons player ever due to his longevity, impact and individual accolades while playing for the “dirty birds” of Atlanta.
Ryan was drafted third overall in the 2008 NFL draft and quickly made his mark as the face of the franchise. Ryan won the 2008 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award by garnering 3,440 passing yards along with 16 passing touchdowns while leading the Falcons to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth.
The former Boston College quarterback led Atlanta to three division titles (’10, ’12,’ 16), six playoff appearances (’08, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’16, ’17), two NFC championship game appearances (’12, ’16) and a Super Bowl 51 berth.
Following the 2010 season, Ryan passed for 4,000 plus yards for ten consecutive seasons (’11-’20) with his best statistical season in 2016. In 2016, Ryan became the first player in Falcons history to win the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards, respectively. Ryan accumulated 4,944 passing yards along with 38 touchdown passes and led the Falcons to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the New England Patriots.
Even though Ryan never won the Lombardi trophy, he’s still regarded as the most successful and accomplished Falcon in the history of the franchise.