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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Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons
Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images) /

Vic Beasley is one of a few players still active with the Falcons to make this all-time list. The idea of having so many active players on this list shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Dimitroff is into his second decade building this team through the draft. That being said, Beasley’s inclusion here at No. 15 isn’t one without debate.

Beasley was drafted No. 8 overall out of Clemson in the 2015 NFL Draft. This was Atlanta’s first draft with Dan Quinn in place at head coach. The Falcons went a rough 6-10 the year prior in the final season of the Mike Smith era in Flowery Branch.

Atlanta notoriously had issues with a perceived lack of toughness and really struggled to get after the passer. This was embarrassingly on display in the 2014 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks featuring the Falcons. They needed a defensive culture shift. The thought was the two-time All-American from Clemson could be that guy in Dimitroff and Quinn’s eyes.

Frankly, Beasley has not lived up to lofty expectations as the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Some where already labelling him as a bust after a bad rookie year, where he had just 4.0 quarterback sacks. Beasley has and probably will always be a speed guy, but has never shown an ability to be a physically imposing presence in the Atlanta pass rush.

That being said, for as much criticism as Beasley has garnered, and rightfully so, in his four years in Atlanta, his 2016 campaign was otherworldly. Nobody in the Dirty Bird faithful, or the NFL for that matter, can deny that.

Beasley broke out in a huge way in 2016, as he had a league-best 15.5 quarterback sacks and a league-best six forced fumbles. He not only made his only career trip to the Pro Bowl to date, but was a no-brainer inclusion as a First-Team All-Pro. To put it bluntly, Beasley was the best player on a so-so Atlanta defense that was largely carried by a historically great offense all the way to the Super Bowl.

But that doesn’t really matter. 2019 is a make-or-break year for Beasley. Quinn and everybody knows it. To date, Beasley has 29.5 career quarterback sacks and nine forced fumbles. The bulk of it came in that dominating First-Team All-Pro season in 2016. With this being a contract year for Beasley, he’ll need something close to a double-digit sack season to get a second contract with Atlanta. He’s averaged around five in his three of his four NFL seasons, not counting 2016.

So yes, you can clearly see why having Beasley on this all-time list is a bit controversial. His sophomore season was sensational, but his other three have been nothing to write home about. Regardless, it’s awfully hard to not include an NFL season sack leader whose pass-rushing prowess that year helped catapult a team to its second-ever trip to the Super Bowl.