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Atlanta Falcons: The 50 Best Players in Team History

Kevin KraczkowskiCorrespondent IIISeptember 7, 2011

Atlanta Falcons: The 50 Best Players in Team History

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    The Atlanta Falcons joined the NFL as an expansion franchise, beginning play in the 1966-67 season. 

    Noted Atlanta businessman and philanthropist, Rankin Smith, wanted a football team for the city.  The NFL offered him an expansion franchise to prevent the rival American Football League from doing so.

    The Falcons compiled a 12-43-1 record in their first four seasons.  In 1971, the Falcons posted their first winning record, going 7-6-1, but would not make the playoffs until 1978, when they posted a 9-7 record. 

    The Falcons franchise has been characterized during their history by long stretches of futility, broken up by short periods of success.  They have made the playoffs ten times in 45 years, and never in consecutive seasons.

    They look to change that with the coming season.

    For the first time in team history, the Falcons have posted consecutive winning seasons, currently three.

    This slideshow is designed to look back at the first 45 years before looking ahead to the next.

    This list was compiled using the "Approximate Value" statistic, as calculated at www.football-reference.com, and explained here.

50. Warren Bryant (1977-1984, AV: 44)

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    Bryant played college football for the Kentucky Wildcats, making the all-SEC team in 1974, 75, and 76 as an offensive tackle.

    Drafted in the first round by the Falcons in the 1977 NFL draft, Bryant was immediately tagged as the starting right tackle, playing 99 games there before joining the Oakland Raiders during the 1984 season.

    He would play five games for the Raiders, finishing out his NFL career.

49. Jeff Yeates (1976-1984, AV: 45)

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    Yeates played college ball for the Boston College Eagles.  He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the fourth round of the 1973 NFL draft.  He would join the Falcons partway through the 1976 season.

    For Atlanta, Yeates would play 112 games from the left defensive end position.  Most of his career was played before defensive statistics were kept. 

    He spent most of his career as a starter, getting 85 starts at his position.  He recovered eight fumbles and one interception.  He logged seven sacks during his last three years in the league.

48. Chris Miller (1987-1993, AV: 45)

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    Miller played his college football for Oregon, and was selected to the All-Pac 10 team in 1985 and 1986.

    He was drafted in the first round, 13th overall, by the Falcons in the 1987 entry draft.  He played 69 games at quarterback for the club, starting 66.

    His best season with Atlanta was 1991, when he led the Falcons to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth.  He compiled a passer rating of 90.7 that season, completing 53% of his passes for 3,103 yards and 26 touchdowns, along with 18 picks.

    His totals over seven seasons with the Falcons: a 74.7 passer rating, 87 TDs, 72 interceptions.  He amassed 14,066 yards by completing 1129 of 2089 passes.  He also rushed for 607 yards and 2 touchdowns.

    He went on to play for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and the Denver Broncos.

47. Todd Weiner (2002-2008, AV: 46)

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    Weiner played college football for Kansas State, making the All-Big XII team in 1997. 

    He was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the second round of the 1998 entry draft, going on to play his first four years in the league with them.

    He would join the Falcons in 2002, and was immediately made the starter at right tackle.  He was shifted to the left tackle position for the 2008 season.  He would play 103 games for Atlanta, starting 96. 

46. Travis Hall (1995-2004, AV: 46)

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    Hall played college football for BYU, and was selected in the sixth round by the Falcons in the 1995 entry draft.

    He would play 134 games for the Falcons, starting 92 from the left defensive tackle position.

    1997 may have been his best season, when he collected 10.5 sacks and 61 tackles to go with 17 assists.

    He totalled 41.5 sacks for the Falcons, with 334 tackles and 96 assists.  He also had 4 forced fumbles and 10 fumble recoveries.

    Hall would play one season for the San Fransisco 49ers before retiring following the 2005 season.

45. Joel Williams (1979-1982, 1986-1989, AV: 48)

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    Williams played college football at Wisconsin-LaCrosse.  He signed as a free agent with the Falcons prior to the 1979 season. 

    During his first stint with the club, he played 51 games, starting 33 at the right outside linebacker position. 

    In 1982, he was selected 2nd team All-NFL at the position.  He would then join the Philadelphia Eagles for three seasons.

    He would rejoin Atlanta for the 1986 season.  This time around, he would play 47 games, starting 37.

    Over his career, he would intercept five passes for 98 yards and one touchdown.  He would also recover 9 fumbles for 111 yards and two more touchdowns.

44. Chuck Smith (1992-1999, AV: 48)

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    Smith played for the Tennessee Volunteers before being drafted by the Falcons in the second round of the 1992 NFL draft.

    Smith played 123 games for the Falcons over the next seven seasons, starting 86 from the defensive end position.  He registered double digit sacks in three different seasons, with a high of 12 in 1997, when he was selected as second team All-NFL by the Associated Press.

    His Atlanta career totals: 270 tackles, 52 assists, 58.5 sacks.  He also intercepted 3 passes for 63 yards and one touchdown.  He forced 20 fumbles, recovering 12 for 89 yards and one touchdown.

    In 2000, Smith finished up his playing career in Carolina, appearing in two games with the club. 

    He is currently the defensive line coach for the University of Tennessee.

43. John Rade (1983-1991, AV: 48)

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    Rade was a Boise State Bronco in college, and was drafted by the Falcons in the eighth round of the 1983 NFL draft.

    Rade was a stalwart of the Falcons linebacker corps for nine seasons, playing 122 games, starting 112 of them.  He compiled four seasons in which he totalled over 100 tackles, with a career high 145 in 1990.

    He totalled 10.5 sacks, 3 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery over his playing career.

    He stayed in Atlanta for the duration of his time with the league. 

42. John Abraham (2006-Present, AV: 48)

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    Abraham was drafted out of South Carolina by the New York Jets in the 2000 NFL draft.  He would play six seasons for the Jets before joining the Falcons.

    For Atlanta, Abraham has played in 71 games as a right and left defensive end, starting 67. 

    In 2008, Abraham made 16.5 sacks, good for third highest total in the league.

    His best season as a Falcon came in the 2010 campaign, when he collected 13 sacks and 35 tackles, making the Associated Press' All-NFL first team.

    His Atlanta totals, 49 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 148 tackles, 16 assists and one interception.  He looks to move up this list in the next few seasons.

41. Deion Sanders (1989-1993, AV: 49)

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    Sanders played football and baseball for the FSU Seminoles in College, and was a consensus All-American in 1987 and 1988.  Sanders was drafted in the first round by the Falcons in the 1989 NFL draft.

    He made the All-NFL second team in 1991, and was a first team selection in 1992 and 1993.  He would excel from the right cornerback position with the Falcons, playing 70 games, starting 63.  He also was a constant threat, returning both kickoffs and punts, as well as occasionally lining up at wide receiver. 

    His Atlanta career totals: 93 punt returns for 789 yards and two touchdowns.  147 kickoff returns for 3388 yards and three touchdowns.  24 interceptions for 520 yards and three touchdowns.  7 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, 238 tackles and one sack.

    He would go on to play for the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves, the Cincinnati Reds, the San Fransisco 49ers, the San Fransisco Giants, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, and the Baltimore Ravens.

    Deion was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 6, 2011.

40. Ray Buchanan (1997-2003, AV: 49)

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    Buchanan, a Louisville Cardinal in college, was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round of the 1993 draft.  He would play with the Colts for four seasons.

    Prior to the 1997 season, he would join the Falcons.  He manned the left cornerback position for seven years, starting 99 games while appearing in 107 overall.

    In 1998, he was a second team All-NFL selection.  That season, he intercepted 7 passes and made 54 tackles.

    He would go on to play for the Oakland Raiders in 2004.

    His Falcon stats: 30 interceptions for 442 yards and one touchdown.  372 tackles and 41 assists with one sack.  Two fumbles forced and three recovered.

39. Fulton Kuykendall (1975-1984, AV: 50)

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    Kuykendall played college football at UCLA, earning 1973 All-Pac 8 honors in the process.  He was drafted in the sixth round of the 1975 draft by the Falcons.

    He was known for playing the game with complete disregard for his own body, earning the nickname, "Kaptain Krazy" in the process.  He played in 123 games for Atlanta, mostly from the left linebacker position, starting 91.

    After the Falcons did not resign him prior to the 1985 season, he made the San Fransisco 49ers roster, but only ended up playing one game with them before retiring.

38. Mike Gann (1985-1993, AV: 50)

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    Gann played for Notre Dame in college, and was drafted by the Falcons in the second round of the 1985 NFL draft.

    Gann was immediately put into the starting lineup at right defensive end, and started all 16 games there during his rookie season.  He collected 4.5 sacks and one fumble return which he returned 42 yards for a touchdown.

    He was moved to the left defensive end position for the 1986 season, and would remain there the rest of his career.  He played in 118 games for the Falcons, starting 117.  He racked up 23.5 sacks and 11 fumble recoveries, scoring twice.

    He retired following the 1993 season.

37. Chris Chandler (1997-2001, AV: 50)

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    Chandler quarterbacked the Washington Huskies in college, and was drafted in the third round of the 1988 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

    He would play for the Colts, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Phoenix Cardinals, the Los Angeles Rams, and the Houston Oilers before being acquired by the Falcons for the 1997 season.  He would start for the Falcons for the next five seasons.

    He was selected to the Pro Bowl twice, following the 1997 and 1998 seasons.  His 1998 season was probably his best, when he led Atlanta to a 14-2 record with a 100.9 passer rating.  He threw for 25 TDs against 12 interceptions, racking up 3,154 yards on 190 of 327 passing.

    Chandler finished up his Atlanta career with a 34-33 record, an 87.4 passer rating, 87 touchdowns and 56 interceptions.  He completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 13,268 yards.

    After leaving the Falcons, Chris would continue with the Chicago Bears and later with the St. Louis Rams.

36. Tom Pridemore (1978-1985, AV: 51)

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    Pridemore played college ball for West Virginia.  He was drafted by the Falcons in the ninth round of the 1978 NFL draft. 

    Pridemore started 97 games at free safety for Atlanta, appearing in a total of 121. 

    1981 was his best season in the league, when he intercepted 7 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown.  He also recovered 3 fumbles. 

    He retired following the 1985 seasons after eight productive seasons with Atlanta.  He totalled 21 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries.

35. Buddy Curry (1980-1987, AV: 51)

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    Curry played college ball at North Carolina, earning 1977 & 1979 All-ACC team selections.  He was drafted by the Falcons in the second round of the 1980 NFL draft. 

    Curry played in several linebacker positions for Atlanta, playing in 109 games and starting 107.  He was selected as the NFL AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1980. 

    Over his career, he collected 5.5 sacks, 7 interceptions and 4 fumble recoveries.

34. Andre Rison (1990-1994, AV: 52)

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    Rison played wide receiver for the Michigan State Spartans in college, earning 1986 All-Big Ten honors.  He was selected in the first round of the 1989 NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts.

    He would join the Falcons for the 1990 season, and was selected to the next four Pro Bowls with the team, playing five years total in Atlanta.  His best season was 1993, when he caught 86 passes for 1,242 yards and 15 touchdowns.

    Rison would go on to play for the Cleveland Browns, the Green Bay Packers, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders, and the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, but his best years were with Atlanta.

    He appeared in 78 games for the Falcons, starting 73.  He caught 423 balls for 5,633 yards and 56 touchdowns.

33. Ken Reaves (1966-1973, AV: 52)

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    Reaves was selected in the fourth round of the 1966 NFL draft out of Norfolk State by the Falcons.  He played at the left cornerback position for Atlanta.

    Reaves was an original Atlanta Falcon, and played in every one of the Falcons first 112 games over eight seasons.

    He intercepted 37 passes for 558 yards and 1 touchdown.  He also recovered 9 fumbles.

    Reaves would go on to play for the New Orleans Saints and the St. Louis Cardinals.

32. Gerald Riggs (1982-1988, AV: 53)

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    Riggs played in college for Arizona State, making the 1981 All-Pac 10 team as a senior.  He was selected in the first round of the 1982 NFL draft by Atlanta.

    Riggs played in 91 games for the Falcons, starting 66.  He was selected to the Pro Bowl from 1985 to 1987. 

    His best season may have been 1985, when he led the NFL with 397 rushing attempts.  He gained 1,719 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.

    His career Atlanta totals: 1,587 rushes for 6,631 yards and 48 touchdowns.

31. Jamal Anderson (1994-2001, AV: 53)

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    Anderson played for Utah in college.  The Falcons selected him in the seventh round of the 1994 draft.

    Jamal played in 88 games over eight seasons with the Falcons, starting 64 of them.  His best season was 1998, when he carried the ball a record 410 times for 1846 yards and 14 touchdowns.  He was a first team All-NFL selection that season.

    In total, Jamal gained 5,336 yards on 1,329 carries, scoring 34 touchdowns.  He also caught 156 passes for 1,645 yards and seven touchdowns.  Anderson suffered a career ending ACL injury three games into the 2001 season.

30. Bill Fralic (1985-1992, AV: 54)

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    Fralic played college football for the Pittsburgh Panthers and was selected to the 1983 & 1984 All-American squad for his efforts.  He was selected in the first round (second overall) in the 1985 NFL draft by the Falcons.

    Fralic played 116 games for the Falcons at the right guard positions, starting 115 of them.  He was selected to the Pro Bowl in each season from 1986 to 1989.

    Bill would test the free agent market following the 1992 season, signing with the Detroit Lions.  He currently broadcasts college football for the Pittsburgh Panthers.

29. R.C. Thielemann (1977-1984, AV: 55)

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    Thielemann was drafted out of Arkansas, where he earned a spot on the 1975 & 1976 All-Southwest Conference team.  The Falcons would select him in the second round of the 1977 NFL draft.

    He would start 114 games for the Falcons at right guard, making the Pro Bowl team in each season from 1981-1983.

    In 1985, Thielemann would move on to the Washington Redskins, where he played four more seasons.

28. Patrick Kerney (1999-2006, AV: 55)

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    Kerney played college ball with the University of Virginia, garnering 1998 All-ACC honors.  He was drafted by the Falcons in the first round of the 1999 NFL draft.

    He played 121 games for the Falcons, starting 106, mostly from left defensive end.  His best season in Atlanta was 2004, when he was selected to the Pro Bowl by collecting 54 tackles, 11 assists, and 13 sacks, good for fourth in the league.

    In all, Patrick amassed 274 tackles, 76 assists and 58 sacks while in Atlanta.  He also forced nine fumbles and recovered ten, one for a touchdown.

    Kerney went on to play for the Seattle Seahawks.

27. Alge Crumpler (2001-2007, AV: 55)

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    Crumpler played for North Carolina in college, earning 1999 & 2000 All-ACC team selections.  He was selected by Atlanta in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft.

    Alge started at the tight end position in 93 games for the Falcons, appearing in 108 total.

    He made the Pro Bowl every season from 2003-2006.  Over those four seasons, he averaged 53 receptions for 746 yards and six touchdowns.

    Crumpler closed out his Falcon career with 316 catches for 4,212 yards and 35 touchdowns.

    He has since played for the Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots.

26. Scott Case (1984-1994, AV: 56)

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    Case was an Oklahoma Sooner in college, and was selected in the second round of the 1984 NFL draft by Atlanta.

    Case was a versatile and relentless talent for the Falcons, playing any defensive secondary position.  He appeared in 162 games for Atlanta, starting 123.

    His best season was 1988, when he led the NFL in interceptions with ten. 

    Over 11 seasons in Atlanta, he tackled 960 ball carriers and caught 30 interceptions.  He also recovered 7 fumbles.

    Case played one season for the Dallas Cowboys after leaving the Falcons, winning a Super Bowl in 1995.

25. Warrick Dunn (2002-2007, AV: 57)

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    Dunn played for Florida State in college, and earned 1994, 1995, & 1996 All-ACC selection honors.  He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round of the 1997 NFL draft.

    After five very productive seasons in Tampa Bay, Dunn signed with the Falcons for the 2002 season.  His best season with the Falcons was 2005, when he earned a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl by rushing 280 times for 1,416 yards and 3 touchdowns.  He also caught 29 passes for 220 yards and another score.

    Warrick would return to Tampa Bay in 2008 to finish out his career.

    He rushed 1,413 times for 5,981 yards and 30 touchdowns for the Falcons.  He also caught 204 passes for 1,635 yards and 6 touchdowns.

24. Bobby Butler (1981-1992, AV: 57)

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    Butler played for Florida State in college, and was drafted in the first round of the 1981 draft by Atlanta.

    He was immediately slotted in the starting position at left cornerback, making 126 starts.  He would play 169 games in total for the Falcons. 

    For his career, he intercepted 27 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown.  He also recovered nine fumbles, returning two for touchdowns.

    Butler retired after the 1992 season, having played all twelve years with the Falcons.

23. Ray Brown (1971-1977, AV: 57)

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    Brown played for West Texas A&M before joining the Falcons in 1971 as a sixth round draft choice.

    Brown played both safety positions as needed, appearing in 94 games for Atlanta.  His best season was 1974, when he intercepted eight passes for 164 yards and one touchdown.

    He totalled 31 interceptions for 574 yards and two touchdowns.  He also recovered ten fumbles.

    Brown would finish out his career with the New Orleans Saints, playing for three years with the club.

22. George Kunz (1969-1974, AV: 58)

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    Kunz played college ball for Notre Dame.  Atlanta selected him in the second round of the 1969 NFL draft.

    Kunz started 79 games for the Falcons, and made the Pro Bowl in each season from 1969-1974, missing 1970 due to injury. 

    He would join the Baltimore Colts in 1975, and would continue to make the Pro Bowl for three more seasons.

21. Mike Lewis (1971-1979, AV: 59)

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    Lewis played for Arkansas-Pine Bluff in college.  Atlanta picked him up as an undrafted free agent before the 1971 season. 

    Lewis would play 120 games for the Falcons over the next nine seasons at the right defensive tackle position.

    He spent 1980 as a Green Bay Packer before retiring from the NFL.  

20. Don Hansen (1969-1975, AV: 60)

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    Hansen was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the third round of the 1966 NFL Draft and by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round of the 1966 AFL Draft.  He played two way college ball for Illinois, starting at fullback and linebacker.  Hansen would play two seasons for the Vikings, then spend one year out of organized football. 

    Picked up by the Falcons for the 1969 season, Hansen played 95 games for the Falcons at any of the linebacker positions, wherever he was needed.  Hansen was renowned for his extremely aggressive tackling.

    He started for the Falcons for seven seasons before leaving to join the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers.

19. John Zook (1969-1975, AV: 61)

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    Zook played for the Kansas Jayhawks in college, and was selected in the fourth round of the 1969 NFL draft by the Los Angeles Rams.  He was then traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, then later to the Atlanta Falcons, all before spending a single day in the NFL.

    Zook played right defensive end for the Falcons for seven seasons, playing in 84 straight games.  He made the Pro Bowl roster in 1973.

    He would later go on to play for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1976-1979, finishing up his NFL career.

18. Jeff Merrow (1975-1983, AV: 61)

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    Merrow played college ball for the University of West Virginia, and was selected by the Falcons in the eleventh round of the 1975 NFL draft.

    Atlanta got more than they paid for with Merrow, as he became a defensive stalwart for them.  He was a ferocious run stuffer and pass rusher.  He started 101 games for the Falcons from either defensive end position, appearing in a total of 108.

    Merrow stayed on the Falcons for nine seasons, spending his whole career with them.  He retired after the 1983 season.  He currently operates a business that sells lifts to heavy-duty trucks.

17. Roddy White (2005-Present, AV: 62)

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    White played for UAB in college, and was drafted by the Falcons late in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft.

    White is a durable wide reciever, playing in all 96 regular season contests while with Atlanta, starting 75.

    He has been to the Pro Bowl for the last three seasons, averaging 96 catches per season.

    For his career, he has caught 430 passes for 6,078 yards and 37 touchdowns.  White looks to add to those numbers in the coming seasons for the Falcons.

16. Alfred Jenkins (1975-1983, AV: 62)

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    Jenkins went to college at Morris Brown, and started his professional football career with the Birmingham Americans of the WFL in 1974.  He was picked up by the Falcons prior to the 1975 season.

    His best season with the Falcons was 1981, when he was selected as a first team All-Pro by catching 70 balls for 1,358 yards and 13 touchdowns, leading the league in yards and TDs.

    He played 110 games for the Falcons starting at wide receiver, and caught 360 passes for 6,267 yards and 40 TDs.

    Jenkins retired after the 1983 season.

15. Todd McClure (2000-Present, AV: 63)

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    McClure played college football for LSU, making the 1997 & 1998 All-SEC teams.  He was chosen by Atlanta in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL draft.

    McClure has centered the Falcon line for 11 seasons, starting 166 and appearing in 169 overall.

    He currently has a string of 144 consecutive games played.

    He has yet to be selected to the Pro Bowl, but he is a very solid and dependable part of the Falcons offensive line.

14. Jim R. Mitchell (1969-1979, AV: 65)

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    Mitchell played college football at Prairie View A&M.  The Falcons selected him in the fourth round of the 1969 NFL draft.

    He made the Pro Bowl in the 1969 and 1972 seasons.  He was also a very dependable tight end, missing three games over his eleven seasons.

    His career totals were 155 games played, 305 catches for 4,358 yards and 28 touchdowns.

13. Terance Mathis (1994-2001, AV: 67)

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    Mathis played college football for the Lobos of New Mexico.  He was chosen for 1986, 1987, & 1989 All-WAC honors.  He was also selected as an All-American in 1989.  The New York Jets drafted him in the sixth round of the 1990 draft.

    He would play four years for the Jets as a third receiver and a return man.  The Falcons signed him as a free agent for the 1994 season.  Mathis would catch 111 passes that year, a club record.  He scored 11 touchdowns, gaining 1,342 yards.  He would be chosen for the Pro Bowl team for his efforts.

    During his eight seasons with the Falcons, he would appear in 126 games, starting 124.  He gained 7,349 yards on 573 catches, scoring 57 touchdowns.

    Mathis would play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002, ending his playing career.  He is currently the offensive coordinator for Savannah State.

12. Michael Vick (2001-2006, AV: 68)

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    Vick is a polarizing figure in Atlanta Falcon history.  On the one side, the infamous off field issues.  On the other side, the on field fireworks.  There isn't any argument that Vick was and is one of the most exciting players ever to play the game.

    Vick played for Virginia Tech in college, and was selected with the first overall pick in the 2001 draft.

    Vick would play for six seasons in Atlanta before his incarceration, starting 67 games and appearing in 74 overall.  He made the Pro Bowl in 2001, 2004, and 2005.

    His best season for Atlanta may have been 2002, when he earned a 81.6 passer rating by completing 54.9 percent of his passes for 2,936 yards and 16 touchdowns with only 8 interceptions.  He also gained 777 yards on the ground, scoring 8 touchdowns in 113 attempts.

    In total, Vick rushed 529 times for 3,859 yards and 21 touchdowns.  He also completed 930 of 1,730 passes for 11,505 yards and 71 touchdowns with 52 interceptions.

11. William Andrews (1979-1986, AV: 75)

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    Williams played for Auburn in college.  He was picked up in the third round of the 1979 draft by the Falcons.

    Williams would appear in 87 games at fullback for the Falcons, starting 72.  He made the Pro Bowl in four consecutive years from 1980-1983.

    His best statistical season was 1983, when he rushed 331 times for 1,567 yards and 7 touchdowns.  His yardage total was good for second in the league.  He also caught 59 passes for 609 yards and 4 more touchdowns.  Unfortunately, he was sidelined for two seasons with a serious knee injury soon after, not returning to action until the 1986 season, after which he would retire.

    All told, he totalled 5,986 yards on 1,315 carries, scoring 30 touchdowns.  He also caught 277 passes for 2,647 yards and 11 touchdowns.

10. Tommy Nobis (1966-1976, AV: 78)

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    Nobis was an offensive guard and linebacker for the Texas Longhorns, averaging almost 20 tackles per game.  He was drafted first overall in the 1966 draft by the Falcons.  He was their first ever draft pick, resulting in the nickname, "Mr. Falcon."

    Nobis was immediately made the starting middle linebacker for an expansion franchise, a position that usually takes several seasons to grow into.  He did not disappoint, making the Pro Bowl as a rookie, collecting 294 tackles that season, still an unofficial NFL record (tackles were not tracked "officially" in 1966).

    For four of the next six seasons, Nobis would be selected to the Pro Bowl team.

    He started 133 games for the Falcons over eleven season, netting 13 interceptions and 12 fumble recoveries. 

    Tommy Nobis is currently the Atlanta Falcons Vice President of Corporate Development, having stayed with the organization, in the front office and on the field, for over 40 years.

9. Rolland Lawrence (1973-1980, AV: 81)

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    Lawrence played college ball for the Tabor Bluejays and was signed as an undrafted free agent for the 1973 season.

    Lawrence played in 118 games for the Falcons over eight seasons, never missing a game.  He started 104 games as the left cornerback and punt returner.

    He made the All-Pro team in 1977, when he intercepted seven passes for 138 return yards and added 51 punt returns for 352 yards.

    Lawrence played his whole career in Atlanta, retiring after the 1980 season.  He amassed 39 interceptions in that time, still a Falcon record, returning them for 658 yards. 

     

8. Steve Bartkowski (1975-1985, AV: 83)

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    Bartkowski played college football and baseball for the University of California.  Atlanta drafted him in with the first overall pick in 1975.

    Steve was the Falcons starting quarterback from his rookie season, garnering NFL Rookie of the Year honors with a passer rating of 59.3, throwing for 13 touchdowns on 115 of 255 passing for 1,662 yards.

    Bartkowski made the Pro Bowl for his efforts in 1980, with a career high and NFL leading 31 touchdowns.  He also made the squad in 1981.

    In 1983, Steve passed for 22 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, leading the league with a 97.6 passer rating.

    He finished as the Falcons all-time leading passer, gaining 23,470 yards on 1871 of 3330 passing.  He passed for 154 touchdowns and 141 interceptions.  His career passer rating was 76.0.

    Bartkowski would join the division rival Los Angeles Rams for the 1986 season to finish his career.

7. Keith Brooking (1998-2008, AV: 84)

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    Brooking played for Georgia Tech in college.  The Falcons would select him with their first round pick in the 1998 draft.

    Brooking played 161 games for the Falcons, starting 146 at any linebacker position they needed him at.  He was selected to the Pro Bowl in every season from 2001 through 2005, averaging 103 tackles per season during that time.

    He would go on to join the Dallas Cowboys for the 2009 season, closing the door on his Atlanta career. 

    He totalled 887 tackles and 243 assists, along with 17 sacks.  He intercepted 12 passes, forced eight fumbles and recovered ten.

6. Greg Brezina (1968-1979, AV: 87)

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    Brezina played in Houston during college.  The Falcons selected him with their eleventh round draft choice in the 1968 draft.

    He would play 151 games for the Falcons, manning the right linebacker position for eleven seasons.

    He was selected to the Pro Bowl for his efforts following the 1969 season.  Unfortunately, he had to spend 1970 on the injured reserve before returning to his slot on the right side.

    Brezina would retire from the Falcons following the 1979 season.

5. Bob Whitfield (1992-2003, AV: 88)

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    Whitfield played O-line in Stanford, gaining 1991 All-American and 1990 & 1991 All-Pac 10 accolades.  The Falcons picked him in the first round of the 1992 draft.

    Whitfield would start out for Atlanta as the right tackle, moving to the left side in 1995. 

    Whitfield played in 178 games over twelve seasons with Atlanta, starting 167.  He made the Pro Bowl in 1998 at left tackle.

    He went on to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Giants, retiring following the 2006 season.

4. Jesse Tuggle (1987-2000, AV: 95)

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    Tuggle played for Valdosta State in college.  The Falcons picked him up as a rookie free agent for the 1987 season. 

    Jessie appeared in 209 games for Atlanta, starting 189.  He made the Pro Bowl in five seasons, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, and 1998.

    He stayed with the Falcons for fourteen seasons, retiring after the 2000 season.

    He totalled 1,640 tackles for the Falcons, breaking the 200 tackle mark in two seasons.  He also collected 21 sacks. He intercepted 6 passes for 106 return yards and one touchdown.  Tuggle also forced ten fumbles and recovered ten more, returning five for touchdowns.

3. Claude Humphrey (1968-1978, AV: 101)

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    Humphrey played for the Tennessee State Tigers in college, joining the Falcons after being selected with their first round pick in the 1968 draft.

    Humphrey played in 127 games for Atlanta, collecting over 100 (unofficial) sacks during that time. 

    He was selected as the 1968 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.  He was also selected to the Pro Bowl from 1970-1974 and in 1977. 

    Over his career, he recovered eleven fumbles and scored two safetys.

    He would play three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles starting in 1979 before retiring.

2. Jeff Van Note (1969-1986, AV: 108)

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    Van Note played football in college for the University of Kentucky Wildcats.  The Falcons stole him in the eleventh round of the 1969 draft.

    He manned the center position for 18 NFL seasons, all with the Falcons.  He started 226 games, appearing in a total of 246.  Van Note missed a total of four games throughout his entire career.

    He was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 1974, 1975, 1980, 1981, and 1982 seasons.

    After retiring, Van Note served as color commentator for Atlanta Falcon and University of Kentucky football broadcasts.

1. Mike Kenn (1978-1994, AV: 144)

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    Kenn played for the Michigan Wolverines in college.  The Falcons drafted him in the first round of the 1978 draft.

    At 6'7" and 275 pounds, Kenn was a brick house protecting Steve Bartkowski's blind side.

    He was the starting left tackle for the Falcons beginning as a rookie, and spent 251 games lodged in that spot.  He is the Atlanta Falcons career leader in games played.

    From 1980 to 1984, he appeared in the Pro Bowl after each season, returning to the Pro Bowl roster after the 1991 campaign.

    After his retirement following his 17th season in 1994, Kenn served as the Chairman of the Fulton County Commission.

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