Atlanta Falcons: 15 best first-round picks of all-time

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) /

Mike Kenn may very well be the greatest offensive lineman in the history of the Falcons. Atlanta drafted him No. 13 overall in the 1978 NFL Draft out of Michigan. He would go on to play all 17 of his NFL seasons with the Falcons, retiring after the 1994 campaign at age-38.

Kenn was an immediate starter for the 1978 Falcons, helping the team reach its first trip to the NFC playoffs with a 9-7 record. By year three in the league in 1980, Kenn was among one of the best offensive tackles in the entire NFL.

He proceeded to rattle off five straight trips to the Pro Bowl from 1980 to 1984. Kenn was a five-time All-Pro, making First-Team All-Pro in 1980 and over a decade later in 1981. His entire Falcons career enveloped that of offensive guard Bill Fralic’s, who was a four-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro in Atlanta uniform.

Kenn was part of Atlanta’s first four trips to the NFC playoffs in 1978, 1980, 1982 and 1991. He kept quarterbacks like Steve Bartkowski and Chris Miller upright in the Atlanta offense. Out on the edge, he helped securing running lanes for talented tailbacks in the form of William Andrews and Gerald Riggs.

Over 25 years after he retired from the game, there is a reasonable case for Kenn’s inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a semifinalist relatively recently back in 2015, but did not earn Canton enshrinement. Like many great Falcons from yesteryear, not playing on a winning franchise certainly hurts his case.

However, that might be just the reason Kenn deserves to get in. Keep this in mind. When a team trails as often as the Falcons did during their nine-year playoff drought from 1982 to 1991, the offense has to drop back to pass to hopefully play catchup on the scoreboard.

Kenn would often have to block elite pass-rushing talents coming off the edge, knowing very well that Atlanta was not going to run the ball in that situation. Despite being up against it for pretty much his entire NFL career, Kenn rarely allowed opposing defensive ends to drag the Atlanta quarterback to the turf.

Playing an unglamorous position like left tackle on a losing franchise like the Falcons were in the mid-to-late 1980s makes it easy to overlook Kenn’s dominance. He’s not Joe Thomas, but in that realm of a great player thriving in a losing environment. Regardless of if Kenn ever gets into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he is one of the 10 greatest Falcons off all-time, as his No. 78 jersey is proudly displayed in the Falcons Ring of Honor.