The Atlanta Falcons are one of the few remaining NFL teams to never have won a Super Bowl. The franchise joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1966. They went on to have a 12-43-1 record during the first four seasons. Throughout their history, the team has been characterized by long stretches of futility followed by short stretches of success. That is until recently, of course.
While the team may not have had a lot of sustained success throughout history, that doesn’t mean they haven’t churned out some great players along the way. Here are the franchise’s greatest players at each position.
Atlanta Falcons All-Franchise Team
Head Coach: Dan Quinn (2015-present)
Dan Quinn started his NFL coaching career with the Seahawks in 2013. With that organization, he was heavily involved with building the dominant defense that the Seahawks had. Because of their success and dominance, it helped land him his head coaching job with the Falcons.
Quinn has been the head coach of the Falcons for three years now. During that span, he has led the team to two playoff appearances, including an NFC championship.
Quarterback: Matt Ryan (2008-present)
Matt Ryan is the youngest quarterback in NFL history to reach 40,000 passing yards. Ryan is also the Falcons all-time passing leader, holding the record with 41,796 passing yards. That is 18,326 yards more than the franchises second passing leader, Steve Bartkowski. Not only is he the franchise leader in passing yards but also in passing touchdowns. He currently holds the record with 260 touchdowns in his career.
The former third overall pick won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008 and MVP after his historic 2016 season, when he led the Falcons to an NFC championship and the Super Bowl. Throughout his career, he has made four pro bowls and one First Team All-Pro.
Running Back: Michael Turner (2008-2012)
This was a tough one to narrow down. It came down to four very qualified backs who you could make an argument for each to be the best running back in franchise history. In the end, it was between Michael Turner and Gerald Riggs with Turner having the slight nudge.
For some, this may come as a surprise for Turner to be listed as the greatest back in franchise history, but many people forget just how dominant he was with the team. Turner played for the Falcons for five years, and during that time he became second on the Falcons all-time rushing yards list and first on the all-time rushing touchdowns list. In his first year with the Falcons, he earned a pro bowl selection and a first team all-pro after he ran for 1699 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. Turner finished his career in Atlanta with rushing for 1300 or more yards in three out of the five season he was there.
Wide Receiver: Roddy White (2005-2015)
Roddy White enjoyed a glamorous career with the Falcons. He finished his career being the all-time receiving and touchdown leader for the team. He recorded 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns during his career. White had six seasons in a row where he recorded 1,100 or more receiving yards. During that span, he managed to get four consecutive Pro Bowls and one First Team All-Pro in 2010.
Wide Receiver: Julio Jones (2011-present)
Julio Jones is widely considered a top-three receiver in the NFL right now and it only makes sense he makes the Falcons all franchise team. He is currently second on the Falcons all-time receiving list and has a very good chance to break Roddy White’s franchise record if he can put up the same type of seasons he has been in recent years.
He has averaged above 13.0 yards a catch every year since entering the league and averaged over 100 yards a game for four of those years. Jones has made the pro bowl five of the seven years he has been in the league. The only two years he didn’t make a pro bowl was his rookie season and in 2013 when he only played five games before getting injured.
Jones has also had three consecutive top 15 finishes in the NFL top 100 list, this year’s ranking has yet to be announced. Overall, it’s safe to say that Jones is not only one of the most dominant receivers in the NFL right now but also in Falcons history.
Wide Receiver: Andre Rison (1990-1994)
Andre Rison’s career in Atlanta was short but memorable. During his five years with the Falcons, Rison received four of the five Pro Bowl honors he had in his career. Four of his five seasons he manages 1,000 plus receiving yards, falling just 27 yards short of 1,000 in 1991. Rison finished his career in Atlanta fifth overall in franchise all-time receiving yards.
Tight End: Tony Gonzalez (2009-2013)
Tony Gonzalez is one of the best, if not the best, tight ends in NFL history. He enjoyed a great 17-year career in the league, playing five of those years in Atlanta. During his career, he managed to make 14 pro bowls and six first team all-pro. Four of those pro bowls and one of the first team all-pros were made during his time with the Falcons.
Gonzalez finished his career sixth on the NFL all-time receiving leaders. While a lot of his career accomplishments were made during his time with the Kansas City Chiefs, he was able to be nothing but reliable and crucial for the Falcons offense. He averaged 10.2 yards a catch during his time in Atlanta and had six or more touchdowns every year to accompany 650 plus receiving yards every year. Gonzalez never missed a game while with the Falcons. He ended his career in the NFL with four consecutive pro bowls as a member of the Falcons organization.
Left Tackle: Mike Kenn (1978-1994)
Mike Kenn is one of the greatest offensive tackles to ever play the game. He started every game of his 17-year career as the Falcons left tackle. Kenn also holds the record for most games played and started (251) in Falcons history. He also ranks second in most seasons played with the Falcons (17). Kenn was selected to the pro bowl five times in his career and made the first team all-pro twice.
In 2008 Kenn was elected into the Falcons Ring of Honor, which honors some of the organizations best player in franchise history.
Left Guard: Justin Blalock (2007-2014)
The left guard spot has been very thin throughout the team’s history. This made it hard to find a player who really stood out at this position. Justin Blalock was drafted in the second round, 39th overall by the Falcons back in 2007. He wasn’t a very flashy guy but was consistent throughout his career. He started at left guard in every game with the team, accumulating 125 career starts. Blalock never made any pro bowls during his career but at the University of Texas, he was a consensus all-American in 2006.
Center: Jeff Van Note (1969-1986)
Jeff Van Note held the center position down for the Falcons for almost two decades. He currently holds the franchise record for most seasons played (18) and most consecutive games played (155). Coming out of Kentucky he was a linebacker who was flipped to center by then head coach Norm Van Brocklin. He earned the starting center job in 1970 and never looked back. Van Note is tied with Claude Humphrey for most pro bowl appearances by a Falcons player with six in his career.
Right Guard: Bill Fralic (1985-1992)
After being drafted second overall by the Falcons in the 1985 NFL draft, Bill Fralic stepped in immediately as the team’s right guard. He started all but one game during his career, finishing with 131 career games started. Fralic had four consecutive pro bowls, from 1986-1989, and also made two first team all-pros. Fralic was awarded to the Pro Football Hall of Fame second-team All-1980s Team as well as the 1985 all-rookie team.
Right Tackle: George Kunz (1969-1974)
Like right guard Fralic, George Kunz was also drafted second overall by the Falcons in the 1969 draft. He made the pro bowl five out of the six years he was in Atlanta. He got injured in 1970 and only played nine games which caused him to miss out on the Pro Bowl that year. Kunz was awarded to the Pro Football Reference All-1970s Second Team.
Defensive End: Claude Humphrey (1968-1978)
Claude Humphrey was drafted third overall by the Falcons in the 1968 NFL draft. He finished his career being the all-time sack leader in Falcons history with 94.5 sacks. He is tied for the franchise lead with six pro bowls selections with the team, including five consecutive selections.
In 1968 he won NFL AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and only built on that success throughout his career. Humphrey was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. During his career, he managed two first team all-pro, six pro bowls, and finished third in team history with 15.6 sacks in a single season.
Defensive Tackle: Rod Coleman (2004-2007)
Throughout the team’s history defensive tackle has been one spot where the Falcons have received average to below average play. There weren’t any players the team has had who really stood out, which made this pick a lot harder.
Rod Coleman’s first two years in Atlanta were great ones. He had 11.5 sacks in 2004 and 10.5 in 2005, which is a lot for an interior defensive lineman. He added a Pro Bowl to his resume in 2005, his only in his career. Sadly, he started to decline fast every year he was with the team. After his pro bowl year in 2005, his sack and tackle number dropped significantly each of the next two years. Coleman finished his career with the Falcons with 30 sacks and 91 tackles.
Defensive Tackle: Jonathan Babineaux (2005-2016)
As mentioned previously, defensive tackle is one of the positions where the Falcons haven’t produced great talent throughout their history. After Coleman, it was a real struggle to find the second-best guy.
Don’t get me wrong Jonathan Babineaux was a solid starter for many years for the Falcons, just was never able to put together eye-popping career achievements. He spent his whole career in Atlanta but wasn’t a full-time starter for the team year in and year out. Perhaps his best season came in 2009 where he recorded 6 sacks and 37 tackles. Both of which were career highs for him.
Defensive End: John Abraham (2006-2012)
John Abraham enjoyed a great career in the NFL, with seven of those years being spent in Atlanta. During his time there he was able to record 68.5 sacks and 204 tackles. Abraham had ten plus sack years in four of his nine seasons in Atlanta, including a career-high 16.5 sacks in 2008.
Abraham was able to achieve one pro bowl and one first team all-pro while in Atlanta and they both came in 2010. He is currently 12th overall on the NFL career sack leaders board, with 133.5 sacks. It is up in the air if he will ever be in the Hall of Fame, but he definitely will go down as one of the best players in Falcons history.
Linebacker: Tommy Nobis (1966-1976)
Tommy Nobis was nicknamed ‘Mr. Falcons’ after being one of the most dominant Falcons players ever. He spent his whole career with the Falcons after being the first overall pick by the team in the 1966 draft. He won rookie of the year in 1966 and recorded three consecutive pro bowls and one first team all-pros within only three years of being in the league. Nobis played in the league before they accurately measured tackle numbers so it is unclear just how many he had during his career.
While it is a shame he was never put into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he is one of just ten players to be selected into the Falcons Ring of Honor. His jersey, number 60, has never been worn by anyone else in the Falcons organization.
Linebacker: Jessie Tuggle (1987-2000)
Nicknamed “The Hammer” for his bone-jarring tackles, Jessie Tuggle is one of the franchise’s all-time greatest players. Tuggle enjoyed a nice career with the Falcons, playing with the team for 14 seasons. During that time he became the franchises all-time leader in total tackles with 2,065 and had 12 straight 100 plus tackle seasons. Tuggle had five pro bowl nods in his career and was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor in 2004, the first year of the Ring of Honor.
Linebacker: Keith Brooking (1998-2008)
Keith Brooking was drafted 12th overall by the Falcons in the 1998 draft. He earned five consecutive pro bowls with the team, from 2001-2005, including three 100 plus tackle seasons. Brooking was a dominant force for the Falcons defense for many years and constantly impacted the game. He finished his career with the franchise recording 882 tackles, 17 sacks, and 12 interceptions.
Cornerback: Deion Sanders (1989-1993)
Deion Sanders was destined for greatness right from the start. In his first ever NFL game, he returned a 68-yard punt for a touchdown. He earned the nickname ‘Prime Time’ because of how much he ran his mouth to receivers and because of how electric he was on the field. Sanders is one of the fastest players to ever play the game of football. He is considered one of the best corners of all time by many people. While with the Falcons he made three pro bowls and two first team all-pros. Sanders quickly became one of the most feared corners in the league. He was a constant shutdown corner and an outstanding ball hawk, recording 24 interceptions in only five seasons with the Falcons.
Sanders was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor in 2010. He currently holds 12 club records: including most interceptions for touchdowns, longest punt return, most kickoff return yards, most kickoff return touchdowns, most combined return touchdowns, and many others. Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall (2004-2007)
While his career in Atlanta was a short-lived one, DeAngelo Hall was able to produce big time for the Falcons franchise. He played for the team for four years and earned pro bowl honors two of those years. He recorded 17 interceptions while with the team and became a shutdown corner on the outside for the team. Hall was also a solid producer in the run game for the Falcons, recording 200 tackles in four years with the team.
Free Safety: Keanu Neal (2016-Present)
While Keanu Neal hasn’t been with the Falcons a long time, he has a chance to be one of the teams best safeties. He was drafted 17th overall by the team in the 2016 draft and has been one of the best defensive players during his time in Atlanta. Last year he earned his first pro bowl nod and was one of the best safeties in the league during that time.
Strong Safety: Scott Case (1984-1994)
Scott Case spent 11 of his 12-year career with the Falcons. During that time he recorded 30 interceptions and 946 tackles. In 1998 he received his only pro bowl nomination after recording ten interceptions that year. Case played both corner and safety for the team and was dominant at both positions.
Kicker: Morten Andersen (1995-2007)
Throughout the franchise’s history, the team has tended to always have good kickers. This made it hard to choose between Morten Andersen or Matt Bryant as the choice here. Andersen became the choice here simply because of his longevity and career accomplishments. He was in the league for 25 years, eight of them being with the Falcons. During that time span, he was awarded a pro bowl and a first team all-pro selection. Anderson finished his NFL career as the all-time scoring leader in NFL history, averaging over 82% of his field goals during his time with the Falcons. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
Punter: Matt Bosher (2011-Present)
Punters are an undervalued position in the NFL. In many instances, they can save your team by giving your defense-favorable field position. And that’s exactly what Matt Bosher has done throughout his career. He averages 45.8 yards a punt throughout his seven-year career and has been known to punt it 65 plus yards downfield.
Return Man: Allen Rossum (2002-2006)
While the franchise did have Devin Hester on the team for two years, most of his career accomplishments came during his time with the Chicago Bears. The best returner in Falcons history, however, is Allen Rossum. Rossum is the Falcons career leader in both punt return (1,723) and kickoff return yards (5,489). He earned one pro bowl with the team in 2004.
Main Photo:Embed from Getty Images