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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Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Roddy White will likely be one of the next Falcons greats to be inducted into the Falcons Ring of Honor. He is easily deserving, but recent Pro Football Hal of Fame inductee Tony Gonzalez will probably beat him to it, as his five years of service for the Dirty Birds was nothing short of incredible.

Still, it is pretty remarkable how marvelously White’s NFL career turned out after a rough start. Atlanta used the No. 27 overall pick to draft White out of UAB in the 2005 NFL Draft. UAB was a fledgling Division I college football program that was briefly suspended, but has since found new life in recent years.

Even though White’s physical nature at wide receiver stood out, he had a hard time adjusting to NFL offenses in his first two years in the league. After two seasons of around 500 receiving yards apiece, White was looking like a first-round bust until he had a breakout season in the lost 2007 NFL season for the Falcons.

With Hue Jackson as his offensive coordinator, White had his first of six straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Though Atlanta’s coaching staff was an unmitigated disaster in 2007, White would become a favorite target of new franchise starting quarterback Matt Ryan in 2008.

White made four straight trips to the Pro Bowl as the best receiving target on the Falcons from 2008 to 2011. In 2010, he led the league with 115 receptions, as he made his only First-Team All-Pro roster in his 11-year career in Atlanta.

White last played with the 2015 Falcons and retired never playing for another NFL franchise, officially calling it a career in 2017. He finished with 808 catches for 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns, all franchise records. He may never earn Canton enshrinement, but he is one of the best Falcons of all-time.

But perhaps White’s longest lasting legacy is the type of teammate he was. He helped usher in Ryan during his first few years in the league, paving the way for him to become a Pro Bowl passer. Still in his prime, White was able to thrive in the same passing game that featured arguably the greatest tight end of all-time in Gonzalez.

Of course, White will best be remembered over time for being the perfect mentor to Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones. White probably recognized that Jones had more talent than he’d ever have, but that didn’t stop him from bringing the best out of his wide receiver protegé in the five years they worked together. Jones will surpass White’s franchise receiving yardage record in September, but White probably wouldn’t have it any other way.