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) /
12 of 16

Michael Vick is one of the most controversial Falcons of all-time, but was undoubtedly one of the most electrifying to ever play in Atlanta. After almost carrying the Virginia Tech Hokies to a national championship as a redshirt freshman, Vick would leave Blacksburg after his redshirt sophomore season to pursue his NFL dreams.

Knowing that they needed a franchise quarterback after seeing Chris Chandler far too often succumb to injury, Atlanta traded up from No. 5 to No. 1 in the 2001 NFL Draft with the then-San Diego Chargers. Atlanta used the No. 1 overall pick to take Vick. San Diego ended up with a Pro Football Hall of Fame player in TCU Horned Frogs running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

Even though Tomlinson was the better NFL player, that is no slight on Vick. There has never been an offensive playmaker quite like Vick. Blessed with a powerful right arm and the legs of a defensive back, Vick would routinely wreck opposing defensive coordinators’ game plans. In his first full year as the starter, he led the 2002 Falcons to the NFC playoffs.

Not only was Atlanta a shocking playoff team, but the Falcons did the unthinkable by beating the Green Bay Packers on the road in the postseason. Before Vick and company stunned Green Bay, the Packers had never lost a home playoff game as a franchise, ever. That was the kind of energetic difference-maker Vick was an NFL quarterback for the Dirty Birds.

Though he never refined his accuracy in Atlanta uniform, the Falcons were playoff viable in all five of his seasons as a starter. Atlanta won the NFC South for the first time in 2004 under first-year head coach Jim Mora. The Falcons made it all the way to the NFC Championship, but came up short against Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles on the road. That would be the last time Vick played a postseason game in Atlanta uniform.

After two underwhelming seasons in 2005 and 2006, Mora was let go by owner Arthur Blank. He opted to bring in then-Louisville Cardinals head coach Bobby Petrino to get the most out of Vick’s talent. Unfortunately, Vick never played a down for Petrino.

Before the 2007 NFL season, Vick was indicted on counts of running a dogfighting operation in his native Virginia. He would plead guilty and ended up serving 21 months in prison. Petrino would leave the Falcons in late 2007 for the Arkansas Razorbacks job in the SEC.

Vick would return to the NFL in 2009 and play six more years in the NFL, most notably with Reid’s Eagles. In total, Vick made four trips to the Pro Bowl, with the first three coming in Falcons uniform. Far from a Hall of Fame player, Vick’s football journey is one of redemption. It remains to be seen if he’ll end up in the Falcons Ring of Honor, but he is on good terms with Blank and most of the Dirty Bird faithful has accepted his forgiveness for his wrongdoing over a decade ago.