FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons currently hold the eighth overall pick in the NFL draft. If they don’t move out of the top 10 by the time their name is called during Thursday’s first round, they would make the 27th top-10 draft pick in franchise history.

The past two top 10 picks had strong rookie seasons – Drake London in 2022 and Kyle Pitts in 2021. Offensive lineman Jake Matthews has played in 145 games since he was selected No. 6 overall in 2014. Julio Jones was selected No. 6 overall in 2011 and spent 10 seasons with the franchise.

The franchise has had some top-10 draft misses in its history. The top 10 selection in 2015 (Vic Beasley, No. 8) had one great season in his five with the Falcons. And continuing with the No. 8 theme – eight years earlier, the Falcons selected Jamaal Anderson with the eighth overall pick. (Anderson finished his career with 7.5 sacks – close enough).

So, who will make the final call or whether the team remains in its current position? General manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith are the key decision-makers in the draft room, although owner Arthur Blank likes to stay informed.

While the current administration may not elect to select a quarterback, the franchise’s three best quarterbacks were selected in the top 10.

-Steve Bartkowski was taken No. 1 in 1975 and was the first quarterback to lead the Falcons to the playoffs (1978).

-Michael Vick was selected No. 1 in 2001 and guided the Falcons to the NFC title game after the 2004 regular season.

-Matt Ryan was selected No. 3 in 2008, was named NFL MVP in 2016 and became the second quarterback to guide the team to the Super Bowl (Chris Chandler, 1998).

The list of top-10 picks also includes Pro Football Hall of Famers in defensive end Claude Humphrey, who was picked third out of Tennessee State in 1968, and cornerback Deion Sanders, who was picked fifth out of Florida State in 1989.

But there also were some big misses in the top 10 for the Falcons.

-Aundray Bruce (No. 1 in 1988) was overhyped as the next Lawrence Taylor and never lived up to the billing. However, he was a serviceable pro for 11 seasons, playing in 151 games with 32 career sacks. (Taylor finished with 132.5 career sacks).

-Bruce Pickens (No. 3 in 1991). The master plan was for Pickens to line up across from Sanders in the defensive backfield, and they would lock down wide receivers in the old NFC West. He was cut in his third season with two career interceptions.

-Jamaal Anderson (No. 8 in 2007). The former Arkansas defensive end (not to be confused with former Falcons running back Jamal Anderson) was supposed to team with John Abraham to give the Falcons a pass-rushing duo. Anderson ended up getting too big and had to move inside to tackle.

The Falcons passed on linebacker Patrick Willis (11th), running back Marshawn Lynch (12th) and cornerback Darrelle Revis (14th) to select Anderson.

Here’s look back at the picks and how they fared in the NFL:

Linebacker Tommy Nobis played with the Falcons from 1966-76.

Credit: Vernon Biever

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Credit: Vernon Biever

1966: Tommy Nobis, Texas, MLB, first: Had a Pro Football Hall of Fame-worthy career that covered 133 games. In March 2018, NFL.com named Nobis as the top Falcon not in the Hall of Fame. Nobis set an NFL record with his 294 tackles as a rookie. He was named the NFL defensive rookie of the year. Nobis played 11 seasons and went to five Pro Bowls. He was an all-decade selection in the 1960s, joining fellow middle ‘backers Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke, both of whom were first-ballot Hall of Famers.

1968: Claude Humphrey, Tennessee State, DE, third: In 2014, Humphrey became the first long-time member from the early days of the Falcons to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. He terrorized quarterbacks in the NFL and was a part of the Falcons’ “Grits Blitz” defense of 1977 that set an NFL record for fewest points allowed. Sacks were not made an official statistic until after Humphrey’s retirement, but a film review of his career determined that he finished as the Falcons’ all-time leader with 94.5 sacks.

1969: George Kunz, Notre Dame, OL, second: Drafted behind USC running back O.J. Simpson, Kunz became an instant staple of the offensive line, playing with the Falcons from 1969-74. He was a Pro Bowl selection his first season and finished his career with eight Pro Bowl selections over his 11-year career.

1971: Joe Profit, Louisiana-Monroe, RB, seventh: He made only seven starts over three seasons. He later went into politics.

1975: Steve Bartkowski, California, QB, first: Held all of the franchise’s passing records until Ryan came along. He is in the team’s Ring of Honor.

1976: Bubba Bean, Texas A&M, RB, ninth: His promising career was cut short by a torn ACL in 1977.

1977: Warren Bryant, Kentucky, OT, sixth: He was a solid pro, with 94 career starts.

1980: Junior Miller, Nebraska, TE, seventh: He went to the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons in the league, but was out of the league after only five seasons. Miller previously held the franchise record for most receiving touchdowns by a rookie, with nine. Calvin Ridley broke it with 10 in 2018.

1982: Gerald Riggs, Arizona State, RB, ninth: He went on to have a stellar career and is a member of the Falcons’ Ring of Honor.

1984: Rick Bryan, Oklahoma, DE, ninth: He won the NFC’s defensive rookie-of-the-year award and had a solid nine-year career.

1985: Bill Fralic, Pittsburgh, G, second: After a storied career for the Pitt Panthers, the three-time All-American was drafted by the Falcons. He started immediately at right guard and went to four Pro Bowls and was twice named to the All-Pro team. After 1992, he played one season with the Detroit Lions. He played in 132 NFL games, 131 as a starter.

1986: Tony Casillas, Oklahoma, DT, second: The Falcons like the Sooners. Since 1966, the team has drafted more players from Oklahoma than any other school. Most notable was nose tackle Tony Casillas. Casillas spent five seasons in Atlanta, accumulating 478 tackles.

1988: Aundray Bruce, Auburn DE, first: The Falcons missed on three Hall of Famers who went after Bruce in the first round. Notre Dame wide receiver Tim Brown (sixth to the Raiders), Miami wide receiver Michael Irvin (11th to Dallas) and Arizona State guard Randall McDaniel (19th to Minnesota).

Cornerback Deion Sanders was the fourth overall draft pick in 1989, by the Falcons.

Credit: Jonathan Daniel

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Credit: Jonathan Daniel

1989: Deion Sanders, Florida State, CB, fifth: Prime Time put on a show in the NFL for five teams on his way to Canton, Ohio.

1991: Bruce Pickens, Nebraska, CB, third: Played briefly for the Packers after his career never took off with the Falcons.

1992: Bob Whitfield, Stanford, OT, eighth: Went to one Pro Bowl and was a key member of the franchise’s first Super Bowl team in 1998 under coach Dan Reeves.

1993: Lincoln Kennedy, Washington, OT, ninth: After starting as a rookie, he lost his job the following season and was later traded to the Raiders. Falcons gave up on him too soon. He went on to start eight seasons for the Raiders and made the Pro Bowl three times and was named All-Pro once.

2001: Michael Vick, Virginia Tech, QB, first: He led the Falcons to a historic playoff win at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field and had them in position to reach the Super Bowl before his career was derailed by a federal dogfighting investigation.

2004: DeAngelo Hall, Virginia Tech, CB, eighth: After four seasons and two Pro Bowl trips, he was traded to the Raiders. He went on to play 11 more seasons in the league.

2007: Jamaal Anderson, Arkansas, DE, eighth: He finished with 7.5 career sacks.

2008: Matt Ryan, Boston College, QB, third: Became the second quarterback to take the franchise to the Super Bowl, during the 2016 season.

The Falcons chose QB Matt Ryan at No. 3 overall, making him the highest pick by the team since Michael Vick was taken at No. 1 in the 2001 NFL draft.

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

2011: Julio Jones, Alabama, WR, sixth: Holds all of the team’s receiving records, surpassing Roddy White.

2014: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M, OT, sixth: Started at left tackle as a rookie and has been to one Pro Bowl.

2015: Vic Beasley, Clemson, DE, eighth: Had one spectacular season in 2016 when he had 15.5 sacks and won the league’s Deacon Jones award.

2021: Kyle Pitts, Florida, TE, fourth: Played all 17 games, had more than 1,000 yards receiving and was named to the Pro Bowl.

2022: Drake London, USC, WR, eighth: He was the first wide receiver taken in the draft.


WIDE RECEIVERSPast few drafts have spoiled NFL teams looking for wide receivers | Top 10 WRs

RUNNING BACKSRunning backs Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs may have to wait to hear their names called | Top 10 RBs

TIGHT ENDSNotre Dame’s Michael Mayer heads a dee TE class | Top 10 TEs

QUARTERBACKSBryce Young’s small stature no longer an issue in the NFL | Top 10 QBs

OFFENSIVE LINESkoronski’s short arm length being scrutinized for left tackle | Top 5 C,G, &OTs

DEFENSIVE LINE Is Jalen Carter the real deal or a potential bust? | Top 5 DTs, DEs

LINEBACKERSDutchtown’s Will Anderson expected to go in the top 5 of NFL draft | Top LBs

CORNERBACKSFormer Georgia standout Kelee Ringo one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL draft | Top CBs

SAFETIES Alabama’s Brian Branch, Jordan Battle are top safeties in the NFL draft | Top FS/SS

SPECIAL TEAMSMichigan’s Jake Moody hopes to kick way to NFL draft | Top STs

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