Atlanta Falcons: Analyzing 10 Best Players Heading into 2011

Mike FosterCorrespondent IMay 9, 2011

Atlanta Falcons: Analyzing 10 Best Players Heading into 2011

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    The Atlanta Falcons had a very intriguing 2011 NFL Draft, and are expected to make even more noise if and when the NFL Free Agency opens back up.

    But, in the time being, teams are sitting around evaluating how they sit as of now. Most rosters are nearly identical to last year's, with the addition of rookies.

    Julio Jones might be a marquee player, but otherwise the Falcons will rely on young, budding talent.

    So, for those who let the Falcons 13-3 season fly over their heads last year, here's a look at the ten players you need to get to know. 

Ovie Mughelli

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    Star Factor: 3/10

    Why he's on this list:

    Most fullbacks in the NFL don't get their due credit, but that's never bothered Falcons blocking machine Ovie Mughelli.

    Mughelli is an all around team player, as well as a great representation of how to be a professional.

    On, and off the field, Mughelli has quickly become one of the more liked figures in Atlanta sports.

    He made the Pro Bowl in 2010, which was more than well deserved. He's an everything player on the field, as great blocker, as well as a receiver. He makes the most of his touches with the football, and brings a lot of energy to the team.

Sean Weatherspoon

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Star Factor: 6/10

    Why he's on this list:

    Julio Jones doesn't get to make this list quite yet, but last year's top draft pick gets the nod.

    Weatherspoon, known as "Spoon" by Falcons fans, was a popular yet unproductive player in 2010.

    He wasn't a bad player at all, in fact he was very good when on the field, considering he was a rookie. But, injuries and depth at linebacker, with Stephen Nicholas, kept Weatherspoon off the field for much of the year.

    This season Weatherspoon will be tenured and should be ready to burst onto the scene. He's without a doubt the most talented linebacker of a very, very talented linebacking corps. He and Curtis Lofton should combine to create tough sledding for opposing tailbacks in 2011.

Todd McClure

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    Star Factor: 2/10

    Why he's on this list:

    Whenever you are an offensive lineman you suffer being unnoticed by most NFL fans.

    Todd McClure epitomizes the counter to that attitude. He's the most tenured Atlanta Falcons player on the roster, starting for the Falcons since 2002. 

    He never misses games, and rarely does he make a mistake. McClure is the anchor of the Falcons offensive line, and his unknown persona reflects the blue collar attitude that the Falcons have carried for the past few years.

Dunta Robinson

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Star Factor: 7/10

    Why he's on this list:

    Robinson only recorded one interception last season, and when you do that you likely aren't going to be noticed by the rest of the league.

    But, Robinson definitely was a solid cornerback for the Falcons last season. Their improved pass defense from 2009 to 2010 was a huge part of the fact they increased their win total by four from year to year.

    Robinson was a part of that, despite being injured a lot. He didn't make much of a splash, as a proven shut down corner, but opponents that threw away from Robinson (all of them) ended up regretting it. In a few slides you will find out why.

    And, for that, Robinson gets a spot as one of the top players on the Falcons roster. He needs to be a bigger playmaker though in 2011, considering his salary.

John Abraham

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Star Factor: 8/10

    Why he's on this list:

    John Abraham has been a star in Atlanta; There is no doubt about that.

    Although he's getting considerably older, and his run defense is average at best, there is no denying the electricity and excitement he brings every time the opponent drops back to pass.

    Abraham is definitely the star of the Falcons defense, but he still needs to pick his game up next year.

    He's also another player who's injured more than they need to be, and he spends a lot of downs on the sideline catching wind.

    You can't really blame him. He is who he is, and as long as he's in a red and black uniform the fans are going to love him.

Brent Grimes

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Star Factor: 7/10

    Why he's on this list:

    Brent Grimes might have been the biggest surprise in the entire NFL last year.

    Dunta Robinson was signed to a huge contract because the Falcons felt they were in serious need of depth at cornerback. Robinson was expected to play alongside Brian Williams, who was apparently the only hope Atlanta had at cornerback.

    After Williams went down for the year, the Falcons scrambled to find someone to fill the role. The 5'9" Grimes stepped in, and many fans immediately threw up the red flags.

    Five interceptions later, and Grimes was the most popular man in Atlanta.

    How could you not love how successful Grimes was last year? Time and time again teams tried to pick on him, and time and time again he made some of the most acrobatic interceptions imaginable.

    He's proven to us that he's an athletic freak, and deserving of a solidified starting role in 2011. Suddenly fans feel very comfortable with No. 20 in the starting lineup.

Michael Turner

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    Star Factor: 8/10

    Why he's on this list:

    In 2008 Turner might have been first on this list, but things have changed a bit since then.

    He's still a fantastic and irreplaceable player, but many argue that Turner has slumped in many areas in the past few years.

    The running game hasn't been nearly as fluid, despite what statistics might imply. Turner spent a lot of players in 2010 running, slowly, from sideline to sideline. The explosiveness that we saw in 2008 was definitely gone last year.

    Most are convinced Turner is way overweight. He admitted to that last offseason, and claimed he lost a considerable amount of pounds, but he still didn't look like the limber burner he was when he came to the Falcons organization.

    With the drafting of a tailback, and a talented one in Jacquizz Rodgers, Turner has a new incentive to be great once again. Rodgers, and Jason Snelling, will be pushing him this year.

Tony Gonzalez

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Star Factor: 10/10

    Why he's on this list:

    Why would Tony Gonzalez not be on any list? He's Tony Gonzalez.

    Unopposed, Gonzalez is the greatest tight end in football history. His numbers over the years are remarkable, and he's done it all with unrivaled class and integrity.

    Mirroring some of the lows of the Falcons organization in the past, Gonzalez's presence with this team is invaluable.

    He ties the morale of the team together. He's the perfect receiver for a young and developing quarterback like Matt Ryan. He makes everyone around him more mature, just ask Roddy White.

    He's one of the best players to ever play the game, and the only reason he isn't number one on this list is because his age might finally be coming around.

    He still might be the best tight end in the NFL, and he's still very fleet footed, but he has a few guys in front of him who have the potential to be just as great. 

Matt Ryan

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    Star Factor: 8/10

    Why he's on this list:

    Matt Ryan is a proven winner. Sure, he still has to get his first playoff victory as an NFL quarterback, but Falcons fans don't need to be concerned with the fact he's 0-2 so far.


    The answer is simple. Matt Ryan has taken one of the losingest franchises in the NFL and has made them serious playoff contenders.

    The Falcons turnaround under the Mike Smith era is highlighted by Ryan's success, as well as his positive representation of the organization, and the NFL.

    He's also a darn good quarterback for his youth. He made the Pro Bowl last year with 28 touchdowns in 3,705 yards worth of passing, and he only threw nine interceptions.

    He's a long term solution at quarterback, and could go down as the greatest player in Falcons history. 

Roddy White

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Star Factor: 9/10

    Why he's on this list:

    Roddy White surprised us all with his drastic improvement over the past few seasons.

    He was drafted as a no-name player out of UAB, and was labeled a bust by the 2006 season.

    Now White is considered the best receiver in the National Football League, at least by his statistics.

    In 2010 he was unstoppable, catching 115 balls for 1,389 yards. And, White didn't have Julio Jones opposite of him.

    No matter the double coverage, or the bumping at the line, White made defensive backs look ridiculous in 2010.

    He's physical, quick, smart, and consistent with his game. He also makes a circus catch here or there, and he's made some seriously clutch catches.

    Not to mention he proved to be the ultimate team player, running down and stripping the ball following an interception against San Francisco

    He's also a humble and relatively quiet personality, which is rare for a top tier receiver. White has a great future in Atlanta, and has an equally bright future when it comes to trying to become one of the game's greats.