We continue our “Falcons 50” countdown with a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ top 10 first-round draft picks. Falcons football is just 36 days away. You can follow along with the full countdown here.
The Atlanta Falcons only have a handful of Hall-of-Famers currently. The future does look bright for the franchise however in terms of Hall-of-Fame inductees with names such as Roddy White, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Jessie Tuggle as potential future enshrinements.
For the busts that the team does have in Canton currently, there is one player in particular who was a cornerstone for the franchise since the initial days of the team. The countdown of the top 10 first round draft picks in team history continues with a member of the 1968 draft class.
6. DE Claude Humphrey – 1st Round, 3rd Overall, 1968 NFL Draft
Being selected third overall out of Tennessee State University, Humphrey was taken two seasons after linebacker Tommy Nobis was the first draft pick in team history and gave the Falcons two pillars on the defensive side of the ball. Humphrey proceeded as a rookie to win leagues Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. In 1969, Humphrey earned second team All-Pro honors as well as 1970 along with defensive ends Bubba Smith of the Baltimore Colts and Deacon Jones of the Los Angeles Rams. Humphrey also made his first Pro Bowl in 1970.
Beginning in 1971 through 1974, Humphrey also made first team All-Pro while also earning Pro Bowl honors from 1970-74 as well.
A devastating knee injury in 1975 put his stellar career at that point on the line. Humphrey missed the entire 1975 season as the injury placed a major road block on what was clearly at that point a dominating career for the aggressive pass rusher.
Humphrey bounced back in 1976 to earn second team All-Pro for the third time in his career and followed that up with Pro Bowl and first team All-Pro honors in 1978.
As the same with many of the NFL players in the 60s and 70s, certain NFL stats were not documented. Upon the conclusion of Humphrey’s career, he was credited with 122 total sacks, which would have placed him tied for 17th all-time. His run from 1968 as a rookie to 1974 was highly impressive as he either won Defensive Rookie of the Year, second team All-Pro or first team All-Pro.
Unfortunately, the same fate that hurt Nobis also had an effect on Humphrey’s Falcons career. During his 10 year tenure in Atlanta, Humphrey was only a member of two winning teams. Both Nobis and Humphrey have orchestrated Hall-of-Fame careers but both also were victims of a lot of losing in Atlanta, which limited any type of coverage or recognition for both players. In the case of Falcons legend Claude Humphrey, his standout career puts him in Falcons royalty.