Draft day is a little less stressful of a matter when your team is coming off a 13-3 season, but it's always been a day of confidence for Falcons fans since general manager Thomas Dimitroff came to the rescue in 2008.
So far Atlanta's draft classes under Dimitroff and head coach Mike Smith have been modest on paper but very productive in games.
But how do they compare to the other draft classes of the past decade?
Here's a ranking of the Falcons' drafts since 2001.
Busts: Jimmy Williams
2006 was undoubtedly the weakest draft of the bunch. The Falcons did not have a first-round pick and used their first pick in the second round on Virginia Tech cornerback/safety Jimmy Williams. Williams looked like a great prospect with his size, but he never built up any type of reason to earn playing time with the Falcons during the regular season.
He was done and shipped off in only a few years. Jerious Norwood was a definite talent as the second pick, but his limber physique has yet to hold up for an entire season. While Norwood still is on the Falcons roster, many believe GM Thomas Dimitroff needs to take an agile tailback at some point in this year’s draft.
Snags: Justin Griffith
Busts: Bryan Scott
Atlanta drafted Penn State safety/cornerback Bryan Scott to add youth to their secondary, but youth turned out to be all they got with their first pick (in the second round) in 2003.
Scott played with a terrible defense during undoubtedly the second worst season of the decade for the Falcons' organization. He was highly unproductive and eventually benched. Justin Griffith was a nice pick up as a running back that started at fullback and spelled at tailback. Griffith ended up having a really nice career for the Falcons before moving to Oakland.
Snags: T.J. Duckett
The 2002 draft just wasn’t a very hyped one for the Dirty Birds.
Coming off Michael Vick’s rookie season and a 7-9 campaign, Atlanta felt like they were swinging upward and didn’t have any major position holes to fill heading into the new year. They drafted T.J. Duckett out of Michigan State in the first round despite the signing of Warrick Dunn in the same offseason. Dunn and Duckett would help Vick take the Falcons to a 9-6-1 campaign that year, and eventually would get back together in 2004 through 2006 to produce one of the more prolific ground games the NFL had seen in years.
Atlanta did not have a second-round pick, and none of the other picks ever made a significant impact.
Snags: Corey Peters
Busts: To be determined
The only reason anyone would think about ranking a Thomas Dimitroff draft class this far back is the fact we just don’t know about this group yet.
Sean Weatherspoon, the Falcons top pick from last year, matured well but fought injury and the presence of solidified linebacker Stephen Nicholas during the course of 2010. Everyone is still pretty convinced ‘Spoon is a star of the future in Atlanta.
The real story of the 2010 class, to this point, was the production from Corey Peters. The third-round pick filled in at defensive tackle after being a bottom dweller in the depth chart through preseason. Peters was starting by the end of the year and holding his own. He was so solid, it appears the Falcons don’t feel the need to go after a big defensive tackle in this year’s draft.
Snags: Justin Blalock, Stephen Nicholas
Busts: Jamaal Anderson, Chris Houston, Laurent Robinson
Bobby Petrino’s first and only draft class ironically consisted of two blue-collar picks from the University of Arkansas in Jamaal Anderson and Chris Houston. Anderson was hyped to be run stuffing defensive end, and Houston was supposed to develop into a lockdown cornerback. A few years later and Houston was the most criticized Falcon by the fanbase, mainly because he seemed to have a bafflingly unavoidable ineptitude for not turning around to play balls in the air.
Anderson never found comfort at defensive end and switched to defensive tackle last year. The Falcons definitely got a solid guard in Justin Blalock out of Texas, and Stephen Nicholas has been a really nice, high energy linebacker for the Falcons since his arrival in Atlanta.
Snags: William Moore
Busts: Peria Jerry
Former first-round pick Peria Jerry is still M.I.A. to most Falcons fans. In fact, most fans have probably forgotten he exists. With Corey Peters, Jonathan Babineaux and Jamaal Anderson all having tons of playing experience, it’s hard to imagine Jerry gets healthy and takes the starting job by storm.
William Moore battled injury during his rookie year as well, but he came through in 2010 to be a playmaker at safety for the Falcons. Moore eventually took over the starting position from tenured veteran Erik Coleman, who was the only defensive back from 2009 who was never criticized for lackluster pass defense.
Snags: DeAngelo Hall, Michael Jenkins, Demorrio Williams, Matt Schaub
The 2004 class was the first for newly hired head coach Jim Mora and GM Rich McKay. It turned out to be a great one. The Falcons went 11-5 in 2004, winning the NFC South and making it all the way to the NFC Championship game. None of these draftees were heavily influential in that success, but they all did a nice job as rookies and built upon their experience in years two and three.
Hall would eventually become a Pro Bowl cornerback, Jenkins is still a solid receiver when healthy and Williams became one of the most productive linebackers/special teamers in the entire NFL (despite the lack of respect from Pro Bowl voters.) Oh, and Matt Schaub is now a Pro Bowl quarterback for the Houston Texans. Yeah, this draft class was a winner.
Snags: Roddy White, Jonathan Babineaux, Chauncey Davis
“With the 27th pick in the 2005 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons select Sharod White, wide receiver, University of Alabama-Birmingham.”
After the commissioner made that announcement, most Falcons fans watching were immediately thinking two things: 1) Who in the world is Sharod White? 2) What are we doing taking a first-round pick from UAB?
Well, Roddy White, as we all know him, battled through a controversial early career to become one of the best receivers in the NFL. And, Jonathan Babineaux and Chauncey Davis have both been the most consistent defensive line draftees since the turn of the century. All three players are staples of the current Falcons roster.
Snags: Michael Vick, Alge Crumpler, Kynan Forney, Roberto Garza, Quentin McCord
The Falcons' first two draft selections in 2001 were in the form of Michael Vick, via trade with the San Diego Chargers, and Alge Crumpler. We all know the Vick story. His presence in Atlanta changed the future of the Falcons organization for the better (whether Vick haters—which in some ways includes me—accepts it).
Alge Crumpler would grow with Vick to become the NFL’s best tight end from 2004-2006, and linemen Forney and Garza are both still pushing through great NFL careers. And, whether Falcons fans remember it or not, seventh-round pick Quentin McCord had a field day against the Lions in 2002, landing him a mention in this list.
Snags: Matt Ryan, Sam Baker, Curtis Lofton, Harry Douglas, Thomas DeCoud, Kroy Biermann
Busts: Chevis Jackson
This is a no contest pick for the top spot. The men drafted in 2008, coming after the most miserable year in Falcons history (which says a lot), immediately became the foundation for what became the 2010 NFC South champions, with the second best record in Falcons history at 13-3.
Matt Ryan has been a savior at quarterback and made the Pro Bowl in 2010. Curtis Lofton, possibly underappreciated, might be just as valuable as Ryan on the defensive side of the ball. Harry Douglas has fought injuries but was a great playmaker as a rookie, and DeCoud and Biermann are projected defensive starters for the 2011 year. DeCoud is a solid safety and Biermann is what many fans have dubbed the second coming of Patrick Kerney.