Do Da Dirty Bird: The Top Five Falcons Draft Picks of the Decade
As a kid, I had to wear glasses. Not those inconspicuous little half-moon deals, not even wire-frames. Yes, because my cheeks would break out when the metal rubbed against them, I wore those thick plastic specs with the Coke-bottle lenses.
Yeah, laugh it up, because now I'm the one chuckling. Behold the 20/20 power of...
Here are your top five Atlanta Falcons draft picks of the past decade. Honorable mention goes out to the man pictured here, who, despite his shortcomings, still meant a lot to our city during the time he was here.
No. 5: Michael Boley
Note that this list will definitely be taking into account value. At what point in a draft a guy was taken has a lot to do with his expectations and how he meets or exceeds them.
Definitely the latter with this fifth-rounder in '05. Starter Edgerton Hartwell went down with an injury, he assumed the starting role, and he never looked back.
All the way until he signed a fat free agent contract with the Giants this past summer. But hey, this list does not hold money against those included.
There were the six forced fumbles, six sacks, and five interceptions during his years in the red and black, but far more important was his consistency. In three years as a regular starter, he didn't finish with fewer than 50 solo tackles per season, and in '07 (when we needed it desperately), he notched 95.
No. 4: Roddy White
Before '09, White would have made the top 10. But before '08, he wouldn't have even done that much. That's how much he's meant to our turnaround and the early-career success of Matt Ryan.
Sure, in '07 he topped the 1,000 yard mark and caught more than 80 balls. But Dirty Bird fans couldn't tell if he was just cleaning up for a really sloppy team, one that had exactly zero other threats on the offensive side of the ball.
Then he bested his numbers in yards, receptions, and TDs in '08 with a heckuva lot more talent around him, and the picture started to become clearer: We had an Andre Johnson, a Randy Moss, a Chad Ochocinco, and we had snagged him late (No. 27) in the first round.
Sure, he took a couple years to blossom. We paid him big in the '09 offseason, and then he didn't slack off a bit. Think he's bought into the new winning mentality in the ATL?
No. 3: Curtis Lofton
Again, value comes into play here, though at this point it might be trivial. Lofton could have been a top-10 pick, and he would still have made this list.
Who else has become the de facto leader of a playoff-caliber defense in just his second year? He's well on his way to establishing himself as one of the top five linebackers in the league, yet just two summers ago he was coming out of school early to be a second-rounder.
Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff went so far as to label him this past campaign's defensive team MVP. Kind of high praise coming from a man brought up in the Pats' organization with the likes of Tedy Bruschi, Adalius Thomas, and Mike Vrabel.
With 105(!) solo tackles this season, he led Atlanta in tackles in most games, and even more impressively, made them in a variety of situations. He was a run stopper, a pass disruptor, and the type who could catch a man just before he broke into the open field.
Here's to a few more season with him as our field general.
No. 2: Matt Ryan
Is such praise a little premature? I compare the Dirty Bird teams of the past two seasons with those of '06 and '07, and I'm simply blinded by the shining light that is this kid's play.
I've bemoaned quite often the state of the franchise after the Bobby Petrino season; let's just sum it up and say that we looked like we were hit by a bus. Then we worked up the guts to use our highest pick since Vick on a position player and are rewarded with...
An 11-5 season and a return to the playoffs.
But what speaks way more to the value of Ice is his play in the last few months of last year. Suffering from a turf toe injury and grasping at what little we had to play for, he did just enough to get us three straight wins and (here comes another thing I've talked about enough already) end the dearth of consecutive winning seasons.
Do I feel good about his third year when his sophomore slump involved a 9-7 record and 22 TDs? It's nice to have a rock at the most important position on the field.
No. 1: Alge Crumpler
This selection is a few parts value (second round, pick 37), a few parts nostalgia, and the rest just straight-up facts. It cannot be said of a single other Falcon that they continued to play with such heart when there was really nothing to play for.
While Vick and the rest of the team was up, then down, then up, then down again, Crumpler was a Pro Bowl selection in four consecutive years. He trampled into the end zone 35 times in seven seasons; not spectacular numbers, but proof that he was a red zone threat on a team that lacked any receiver remotely capable of that role.
And while he's clearly losing steam as a Titan and was surely a beneficiary of our thin ball-catching corps in the middle part of the naughts, he's the next thing reminiscing Atlantans think of after dog-fighting and treacherous coaches.