We continue our “Falcons 50” countdown with a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ top 10 first-round draft picks. Falcons football is just 32 days away. You can follow along with the full countdown here.
The electricity created was a rarity to Atlanta Falcons fans. Even with the team reaching the Super Bowl behind Dan Reeves and his “Dirty Birds”. He turned heads, raised eyebrows, elevated the play of teammates, created a buzz around the league, and scared opposing defenses.
On April 21, 2001, the Falcons franchise changed with one selection at first overall. At number two on the countdown of the top 10 Falcons first rounders in team history, here is perhaps the most impactful player in team history.
2. QB Michael Vick – 1st Round, 1st Overall, 2001 NFL Draft
There is little debate that Michael Vick enhanced the franchise upon being drafted 15 years ago. This was a team that yes, made the Super Bowl three seasons prior but hasn’t truly seen a superstar type caliber player since the days of seeing Deion Sanders in a Falcons uniform.
Year one for Vick was spent on the sidelines for a good chunk of the season with Vick only seeing eight games worth of play in 2001. Fans clamored for the super athletic quarterback who was still relatively raw in certain aspects of his game. He did however tally up 785 passing yards and two touchdowns along with 289 rushing yards and a score.
Taking over the offense for the 2002 season, Vick led the Falcons to an 8-6-1 record and a playoff berth as he passed for 2,936 yards and 16 touchdowns with eight interceptions and ran for another 777 yards and eight touchdowns. That season saw the young quarterback steal a win in overtime against Minnesota and defeated the Brett Favre, Ahman Green-led Green Bay Packers in a Wild Card playoff game in the cold weather at Lambeau Field.
His 2003 season was taken away from him due to a preseason injury but he bounced back in 2004 to throw for 2,313 yards and 14 touchdowns while amazingly rushing for 902 yards and three touchdowns.
Vick also became the first quarterback in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing yards in a season (1,039) in 2006. Unfortunately, that was his last season as a Falcon due to a well-documented scandal involving dogfighting.
Beyond that dark cloud, Vick was a spark plug for the franchise in more ways than one. There were quarterbacks before him in Fran Tarkenton, Randall Cunningham, and Steve Young who consistently brought the rushing element at the position but Vick mastered it and displayed a facet to the game that was never seen before up to that point.
Because of his transcending play in Atlanta, he clearly paved a lane for other mobile quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Vince Young and others. The four-time Pro Bowler won only 38 games in his Falcon career with only two playoff seasons during his Falcons career. The only reason Vick isn’t number one is because of his departure from the team ending in such a sour note, that it hurt the franchise significantly.
Yet still, Vick is a Falcon at heart.