The Falcons' 2020 offense could start 11 first-round draft picks

Falcons could start an unprecedented 11 first-rounders on offense

With the addition of running back Todd Gurley Friday and receiver Laquon Treadwell Sunday, the Falcons’ 2020 offense could boast an NFL first: 11 starters who were first-round draft picks.

Last season, the Falcons featured 10 starters who had been first-round picks — just seven on offense: 

Offense

Matt Ryan, QB (2008, 3rd overall) 
Julio Jones, WR (2011, 6th overall) 
Calvin Ridley, WR (2018, 26th overall) 
Jake Matthews, OL (2014, 6th overall) 
Kaleb McGary, OL (2019, 31st overall) 
Alex Mack, OL (2009, 21st overall) 
James Carpeneter, OL (2011, 25th overall) 

Defense

Takkarist McKinley (2017, 26th overall) 
Vic Beasley, LB (2015, 8th overall) 
Desmond Trufant, CB (2013, 22nd overall) 

Safety Keanu Neal (2016, 17th overall) would’ve made 11 starters, but was lost for the year with a torn Achilles.

Other teams have featured more first-round picks on the roster. The Arizona Cardinals in 2018 had as many a 13 former first-round picks — seven as starters.

Still, the potential of having 10 or more starters on offense that were drafted with the first 32 picks is unprecedented. It hasn’t happened since the AFL and NFL merged, according to Elias Sports, creating the modern era draft in 1967. 

Here are the Falcons’ potential starting 11 and how they were assembled:

Matt Ryan, quarterback: Drafted by Falcons third overall in 2008. He is the only remaining member of general manager Thomas Dimitroff’s first draft class still on the active roster.
Todd Gurley, running back: Drafted 10th overall by the Rams in 2015. Acquired by Atlanta after released by Los Angeles in March 2020. 
Julio Jones, wide receiver:  Atlanta traded five draft picks to Cleveland to move from the 27th pick to 6th overall in 2011. Jones has six-straight seasons of 1,300 or more receiving yards.
Calvin Ridley, wide receiver: Selected 26th overall by Atlanta in 2018. Ridley made the All-Rookie team with 64 catches, 836 receiving yards, 13.1 yards per catch and eight touchdowns.
Laquon Treadwell, wide receiver: Drafted by Minnesota 23rd overall in 2016.  The Falcons signed the free-agent receiver who in 53 career games has caught 65 passes for 701 yards and two touchdowns. 
Hayden Hurst, tight end: Taken 25th overall in 2018 by Baltimore. The Falcons picked up the former South Carolina standout, in a trade. He’s caught 43 of 62 passes in 28 games for 512 yards and three touchdowns. 
Jake Matthews, left tackle: The sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Matthews agreed to a five-year, $75 million contract extension with the team in 2018. He has started 95 games at tackle. Played in 99.9% (1,189) of offensive snaps on a line allowed 50 sacks and 135 quarterbacks hits.
James Carpenter, left guard: Drafted 25th overall by Seattle in 2011. The Falcons added Carpenter in 2019. He appeared in 11 games — shuffling time with Wes Schweitzer (now with Washington) and Jamon Brown — as he tried to play through an assortment of injuries.
Alex Mack, center: The 21st overall pick in 2009 by Cleveland, came to Atlanta as a free agent in 2017. He’s made 64 regular starts in four seasons in Atlanta and played in one Super Bowl with a fractured fibula.
Chris Lindstrom, right guard: The Falcons’ 14th overall draft pick in 2019, suffered a broken foot in the first game and missed 11 games.
Kaleb McGary, right tackle: The Falcons sent the Rams their second- and third-round picks for the 31st overall pick in 2019, selecting the guard from Washington. McGary started every game, but missed some game time with a sprained knee after missing much of training camp and the preseason in the wake of a heart procedure to regulate his heartbeat.

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