3 Former Falcons who would thrive under new NFL kick-off rule

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The NFL installed new kick-off rules this offseason attempting to bring the play back. It is a needed change for the league and kick return specialist. Over the last few seasons, the play has become little more than a ceremonial beginning to the real action.

Players having a chance to return the kick was rare. It was far wiser to take a knee and let your offense jog out to the 25 yard line to truly begin the game. This play offers teams the chance to bring it back and for special teams to matter once again.

Special teamers and return men, in particular, will carry far more value. Looking at the new kick-off it is fun to consider Falcons of seasons past who would have thrived under this new rule. Starting with the Falcons and Cowboys legend who continues to demand headlines.

Deion Sanders

Few are as naturally athletically gifted as Deion Sanders was. The former Falcon could have played a number of positions based on his ability and anticipation of those around him. These skills translated into a handful of absolutely electric returns.

Sanders long striding his way to the endzone will forever remain iconic. Though in today's league, you aren't going to have a player of his ability returning kicks it is fun to consider. With the line of scrimmage so close, Sanders is one cut away from being gone at all times.

This elite ability is exactly the type of player that will thrive in this new play. Sanders is a legend who would have been perfectly suited for this play.

Devin Hester

The type of player Hester was, the style of kick-off really didn't matter. Put the ball in Hester's hands and his speed and ability to read the field are going to create big plays. If you need a refresher on Hester's greatest look no further.

Hester's Super Bowl return is iconic regardless of how the game might have ended. He was an elite weapon that demanded special teams attention, unlike almost any other player. Hester's time with Atlanta came near the end of his career.

However, the veteran still had a big impact in both the return game and as a receiver. The rule change would only make it easier for a player who is already in the discussion when it comes to the best return men in NFL history.

Cordarrelle Patterson

It was clear this season the Falcons seemed to believe Patterson had lost a step. Either that or it was complete mismanagement not allowing him more touches. No matter the reasoning Patterson isn't far removed from being one of the best return men in the game.

What makes Patterson's career so interesting is the odd mix of speed and physicality. He never appears to be the fastest or strongest player on the field. And yet you put the ball in his hands and something changes.

Patterson turns into a different human with the ball in his hands and isn't to be messed with. He doesn't mind running over you or away from you. It is a special attitude that has the former Falcon as the all-time leader in kick-off returns with nine in his career.

Atlanta has an argument of having three of the best return men in league history. A high bar as either Ray-Ray McCloud or Avery Williams look to take over this season.