Hat tip to one of my favorite readers, L0rd91, for this idea. NFL.com has been running a series of league-wide draft do-overs recently, and Lord came up with the idea of doing something similar, but exclusively for the Falcons, so here we go.
Look, there's no way I would want to re-do the Falcons' third overall pick in 2008. Coming off of an abysmally disappointing 2007, the Falcons placed the hope for the future of the franchise squarely on the shoulders of a quarterback out of Boston College, and while I realize and accept that there are those of you who believe Matt Ryan is not the answer for this franchise, his stats and overall performance from the moment he stepped foot on the field as a pro would suggest that he is.
For what it's worth, Bucky Brooks at NFL.com has Atlanta selecting Joe Flacco with the third pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. Yes, Flacco has established a better postseason track record than Ryan, but it's worth questioning whether that would have been the case if Flacco had been competing with Atlanta's defense rather than Baltimore's. Anyway, the main reason Brooks has the Falcons taking Flacco in his draft do-over is because he has the Dolphins selecting Matt Ryan instead of Jake Long with the first overall pick.
The Falcons also traded two second round picks and a fourth round pick to move up and select offensive tackle Sam Baker out of USC with the 21st-overall pick. Oh, to have this one back. Baker's injuries and poor play have certainly not lived up to first-round expectations. Just a few picks later, the Texans selected Duane Brown, an offensive tackle out of Virginia Tech. Brown is still with the Texans and posted a +14.6 grade for the 2013 season per Pro Football Focus.
With their second round pick, Atlanta selected Curtis Lofton, a middle linebacker out of Oklahoma. Despite the fact that Lofton moved on to some gross team in free agency prior to the 2012 season, I feel like he lived up to his potential as a second round pick during his time in Atlanta.
Now, at the time, the Falcons had recently signed Michael Turner, who would be extremely prolific in 2008 and through the next couple of seasons, but there were two stellar young running backs available at the time Atlanta selected Lofton, Matt Forte and Ray Rice. It wasn't a huge need for Atlanta at the time, but I'd sure love to have one of those guys on the roster currently. Another interesting option would have been defensive end Calais Campbell. Lofton, however, was a solid choice.
In Round 3 of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Falcons selected Chevis Jackson with the 68th pick. This is a pick they'd almost certainly love to have back. Just five picks later, the Chiefs selected Jamaal Charles. Defensive tackle Pat Sims went to the Bengals just two picks after that. Jackson's time in Atlanta was short-lived and he didn't do much. They could have done better with this pick.
The Falcons also had the 84th pick, and they selected Harry Douglas with it. Regardless of the handful of notable dropped balls and inexplicable falls, Douglas has been a consistent contributor since being drafted and is coming off of his best season to date statistically. Defensive end Cliff Avril, tight end Jermichael Finley and receiver Mario Manningham were selected shortly after Douglas, and any of those would have been viable options with that pick.
Atlanta used the 98th overall pick in the third round on free safety Thomas DeCoud. While most fans agree with the decision to cut DeCoud following the 2013 season, he did have some good contributions over this time with the Falcons, culminating in a trip to the Pro Bowl following an impressive 2012 season. They probably got adequate value out of a late-third rounder. Tackle Anthony Collins and tight end Jacob Tamme both might have been options for the 98th overall pick--both were selected by their respective teams in the fourth round.
With the 138th pick of the 2008 NFL draft, the Falcons selected linebacker Robert James, who never really panned out or contributed much. In these late rounds, things are pretty hit or miss. The Saints selected guard Carl Nicks in the late fifth round, and had the Falcons grabbed Nicks instead of James, it really might have had a long-term impact on the success of the team.
The Falcons also selected Kroy Biermann in the fifth round with the 154th pick, and Biermann has, in my opinion, exceeded expectations for a fifth rounder. I wouldn't change this pick.
The Falcons took running back Thomas Brown with the 172nd pick in 2008, but wide receiver Pierre Garcon was available until the end of the sixth round, and would have been in a better choice in hindsight.
No team expects all of their late round picks to pan out, but Atlanta's late round results in the 2008 drafted were disappointing, particularly the seventh round. The Falcons selected cornerback Wilrey Fontenot with the 212th pick, and tight end Keith Zinger with the 232nd pick while wide receiver Davone Bess, left tackle Demetress Bell, outside linebacker David Hawthorne (not a scheme fit at the time, but still) and strong safety James Ihedigbo all went undrafted.
What changes would you make to the Falcons 2008 draft decisions?