We continue our “Falcons 50” countdown with a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ top 10 first-round draft picks. Falcons football is just 40 days away. You can follow along with the full countdown here.
Accumulating successful draft picks is way more complex than it seems. Some teams have created a profound history for excelling in the draft while others have seen more losses than wins. For the Atlanta Falcons, the draft history for the ‘Dirty Birds’ has been solid at times (Sean Weatherspoon, Bob Whitfield, William Andrews) and has crashed-and-burned (Aundrey Bruce, Bruce Pickens, Jamaal Anderson).
Continuing on with the “Falcons 50” countdown, we will now focus on the first round in the Falcons draft history. Who are the greatest first round picks in Atlanta Falcons history? The list will include some recent selections as well as some historic names. We kick off the list with the Falcons all-time leading rusher.
10. RB Gerald Riggs – 1st round, 9th overall, 1982 NFL Draft
Selected out of Arizona State in 1982, Riggs joined a Falcons team that was coming off a previous season in which they ended up in second place in the NFC West with a 7-9 record. Keep in mind that the team also had a backfield that already consisted of running back William Andrews, who rushed for 1,301 yards and 10 touchdowns in 1981.
Riggs ran for 299 yards and five touchdowns in his initial season in Atlanta and by 1984, Riggs became a full-time starter and rushed for 1,486 yards and 13 touchdowns. His rushing total that season was good for fourth in the NFL.
Riggs totaled three Pro Bowls, starting in 1985 and his last Pro Bowl selection coming in 1987. He also ran for 1,719 yards (good for second in NFL) and 10 touchdowns in 1985. The runner came in sixth in the league in 1986 with 1,327 yards and another nine touchdowns.
The 1988 season was his last as a Falcon as he totaled only 488 yards and one touchdown in only nine games of action. Prior to the 1989 season, Riggs was traded to Washington.
In just seven seasons, Riggs left the Falcons as the all-time leading rusher (6,631) and still remains to this day, while also leading the team in all-time total carries (1,587) and second in team history in rushing touchdowns (48)
Why the ranking of 10th for the all-time rusher? As solid as Riggs played in the early-to-mid 80s, he hit a wall after his three Pro Bowl seasons and with total carries of 353, 397, and 343 in the 84-86 seasons respectively, the fact he slowed down soundly should not be much of a surprise.
Riggs may have been significantly higher on this countdown if he put together a couple of more seasons of 1,000 yards. However, his playing career paved it’s own course which still has him placed on this countdown as one of the best first round picks in Atlanta Falcons history.