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NFL Draft | History dictates the Atlanta Falcons should focus on defense for Day 1

The Falcons, who own the 14th pick for Thursday night, aren't likely to stand pat at this spot, unless there's an early run on quarterbacks.

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons own the 14th pick for Round 1 of this week's NFL draft.

Will the club hold on to the selection Thursday night? Or will the team execute a major trade into the top eight, as a means of snagging a potential game-changer at defensive end or tackle?

Only two things can be definitively stated at this point:

a) The Falcons aren't in the market for a quarterback, wide receiver or running back in the first round. They're covered with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Ito Smith and Devonta Freeman.

b) Atlanta's quality of options at 14 will run proportionate to the number of teams desperate to land a quarterback in the first 13 choices.

Such as, we all know reigning Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray has been bandied about as the No. 1 overall pick (or maybe No. 4 to the Raiders).

However, the real wild-card status involves Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State), Drew Lock (Missouri) and Daniel Jones (Duke) – all of whom have top-five potential ... but could also fall out of the opening round altogether.

11Alive Sports circles back 20 years to research and rank the players who've been drafted at the 14th overall slot since 1999:


1. CB Darrelle Revis, Jets (2007)
2. S Earl Thomas, Seahawks (2010)
3. LB Thomas Davis, Panthers (2005)

It's too early to tell if Thomas (one Super Bowl title, three-time All-Pro, six Pro Bowls) and Davis (one All-Pro, three Pro Bowls, six seasons of 100-plus tackles) will become viable candidates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but their contributions have certainly exceeded the value of the 14th pick.

In fact, there's only one knock on both selections: 

For the 2005 and 2010 drafts, respectively, one future Hall of Fame quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) and one borderline Hall of Famer at receiver (Dez Bryant) were taken at No. 24 overall.

As for Revis (one Super Bowl title, four-time All-Pro, seven Pro Bowls, 29 INTs, 139 pass deflections), he likely stands as this century's best cornerback; and he'll undoubtedly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in roughly five years.


4. DE Robert Quinn, Rams (2011)
5. CB Kyle Fuller, Bears (2014)
6. CB/DB Malcolm Jenkins, Saints (2009)
7. DT Brodrick Bunkley, Eagles (2006)

Quinn posted three straight amazing seasons from 2013-15, accounting for nine pass deflections, 13 forced fumbles, 47 tackles for loss and 40 sacks during this prolific stretch

However, injuries and age have altered Quinn's career trajectory.

Fuller enjoyed a monster season with the Bears last year, collecting seven interceptions and 21 pass deflections (both league highs). With a little more seasoning, the Virginia Tech star could play his way into Tier I.

I swear, Jenkins has had gray hair since Day 1 of his NFL career (with the Saints in 2009); and 10 seasons later, the Ohio State alum (converted safety) remains one of the most reliable assets in the secondary, despite never possessing the straight-line speed to star at cornerback (college position).


8. DT Star Lotulelei, Panthers (2013)
9. DT Tommie Harris, Bears (2004)
10. TE Jeremy Shockey, Giants (2002)
11. DE Michael Brockers, Rams (2012)
12. OT John Tait, Chiefs (1999)

No scout or general manager ever lost their job – or received a major promotion – on the standalone legacies of selecting Lotulelei, Harris (three Pro Bowls), Tait, Brockers and Shockey (one All-Pro, four Pro Bowls, one Super Bowl title), who was a highly productive tight end in his first five seasons ... before hitting the proverbial wall for the second five years.

Bottom line: All five players were bedrock starters for their respective clubs, even if they weren't generally hailed as the best at their positions for a sustained period.


13. DE Derek Barnett, Eagles (2017)
14. OT Chris Williams, Bears (2008)
15. OT Kenyatta Walker, Buccaneers (2001)
16. WR DeVante Parker, Dolphins (2015)
17. DE Marcus Davenport, Saints (2018)
18. S Karl Joseph, Raiders (2016)
19. TE Bubba Franks, Packers (2000)

Barnett (13th) and Davenport (17th) are in 'placeholder' spots, given their novice status in the league. At the same time, their respective careers have been somewhat erratic.

Parker has the all the physical tools to be a great receiver in this league. But there is no excuse for just two touchdowns over the last seasons ... especially when you're built for red-zone domination.

For everyone else, they're doing (or did) enough to stay in the NFL for a respectable amount of time. But when these teams are rolling the dice on Draft Weekend, they're not really aiming for 'respectable' midway through the first round.


20. DE Michael Haynes, Bears (2003)

Haynes represents the only true bust of this countdown. 

In three seasons with the Bears (2003-05), the Penn State alum started only four games and registered just 5.5 sacks.

Making matters worse, with Haynes in the mix, the Bears squandered their shot at a future Hall of Fame safety (Troy Polamalu), one of the NFL's best cover cornerbacks of the 2000s (Nnamdi Asomugha) or one of that decade's most prolific running backs (Larry Johnson).