We continue our “Falcons 50” countdown with a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ top 10 first-round draft picks. Falcons football is just 35 days away. You can follow along with the full countdown here.
We have now reached the halfway point in the countdown of the top 10 first round draft picks in Atlanta Falcons history. So far the all-time leading rusher in team history has been selected (Gerald Riggs) so has the first draft pick in team history (Tommy Nobis), a productive linebacker (Keith Brooking), one of the best pass rushers (Patrick Kerney), and a Hall-of-Famer (Claude Humphrey).
Now things get interesting with this stretch of upcoming names. So interesting, that there is a tie for fifth. Two names who were integral components during their respective eras. Two names who were as steady as can be as professionals. Enough of the small talk, here is the first half of the number five selection.
T-5. OT Mike Kenn – 1st Round, 13th Overall, 1978 NFL Draft
The former Michigan Wolverine developed a hard-hat skill set playing for the legendary head Bo Schembechler. Taken in 13th overall in 1978, Kenn was the true definition of “cornerstone” for the Falcons. Even legendary 49ers head coach Bill Walsh once stated that he “never seen an offensive tackle with his agility and quickness”. Lofty words for the talented Kenn.
Kenn contributed 17 seasons worth of work to the city of Atlanta and the Falcons franchise. In an era where career lengths are roughly close to a decade, Kenn played in 251 games and started every single game and holds the franchise record for games played and games started. Kenn made the All-Rookie team in ’78 and was equally productive in 1979.
The 1980 season was the beginning of four straight Pro Bowl berths and sprinkled in between that same time period were two stints on the first team All-Pro (1980, 1983) and second team All-Pro (1981, 1982). During a three season stretch (1979-1981), Kenn was flagged seven times altogether. How impressive is that.
Kenn also earned first team All-Pro once again in 1991 and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 1992. After retiring as a Falcon following the 1994 season, Kenn was inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor in 2008 and became a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 2015. Kenn was everything the Atlanta Falcons coveted in 1978 and became a specialist at consistency and excellent play throughout his career.
T-5. QB Matt Ryan – 1st Round, 3rd Overall, 2008 NFL Draft
The gloomy days following the Michael Vick scandal and his departure needed a badge of hope. That outlook came with the third overall pick in 2008 as Matt Ryan was selected to be the next face for the Atlanta Falcons. Winning Offensive Rookie of the Year was the first step. That first step as the face of the franchise sparked fireworks with his very first pass:
Since then Ryan has been the conductor of five seasons of nine or more wins during his eight-year career while compiling 74 wins & three Pro Bowl seasons. Ryan is also stringing along five straight seasons of at least 4,100 passing yards, which has also given Ryan the top five passing yard totals in team history. Matty Ice is the all-time Falcons leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns, passing yards per game, wins, and game-winning drives.
So why isn’t he above fifth overall? Simply put, he’s done just about everything right for the franchise except for one glaring note: one playoff victory. It’s impossible to place all of the blame on the shoulders of the most productive quarterback in team history but when you’re the quarterback, it’s easier to point the finger at him.
Plus, Ryan’s career is still on-going. A Super Bowl win here, a few more playoff wins there, and Ryan will no doubt climb the charts as one of the greatest Falcons first round picks team history.