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Atlanta Falcons’ 2008 NFL Draft Touted as One of the Best Drafts of the 21st Century

A good NFL Draft can get any organization back on track, but sometimes a one-year draft is so impactful that it changes the entire trajectory of a franchise. ESPN’s Aaron Schatz has decided, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ vaunted 1974 draft, to rank it the 12th best draft of the 21st century. The Atlanta Falcons and their transformational 2008 draft ranked fourth overall and marked the most successful era of Falcons football to date.

  • Round 1, pick 3: QB Matt Ryan, Boston College
  • Round 1, pick 21: OT Sam Baker, USC
  • Round 2, pick 37: LB Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma
  • Round 3, pick 68: DB Chevis Jackson, LSU
  • Round 3, pick 84: WR Harry Douglas, Louisville
  • Round 3, pick 98: Thomas Decoud, Cal
  • Round 5, pick 138: LB Robert James, Arizona State
  • Round 5, pick 154: LB Kroy Biermann, Montana
  • Round 6, pick 172: RB Thomas Brown, Georgia
  • Round 7, pick 212: DB Wilrey Fontenot, Arizona
  • Round 7, pick 232: TE Keith Zinger, LSU

This one is a bit heavy, led by recently retired Matt Ryan, the most valuable player in Falcons history. He spent 14 years as a starting quarterback and was named league MVP in 2016. With a second first-round pick, the Falcons selected offensive lineman Sam Baker, who started three seasons and part of a few others as Atlanta’s left tackle. Second-round pick Curtis Lofton immediately became the Falcons’ middle linebacker and started four seasons for them, then three for the Saints and one for the Raiders.

In the third round, the Falcons took safety Thomas DeCoud, a six-year starter for two teams who made the Pro Bowl once for Atlanta, and wide receiver Harry Douglas, who had more than 1,000 receiving yards in 2013. Finally, the fifth round brought Kroy Biermann, a rotation player who started most of 2010 and 2014.

The previous year was one of the worst Falcons fans had seen thus far. Star quarterback Mike Vick was shut down this offseason, head coach Bobby Petrino left after 13 games and Atlanta was left in shambles.

Armed with new head coach Mike Smith, new quarterback Matt Ryan and new receiver Harry Douglas, Atlanta began a 14-year tenure that involved seven playoff berths, three division titles and a conference championship.

Not a bad start for then-general manager Thomas Dimitroff.