If you want to know where the Atlanta Falcons truly went off the rails, you can take a hard look at the 2011 and 2012 draft classes, which yielded the magnificent Julio Jones and not much else. With the release of Lamar Holmes, the 2012 draft is history with the team.
#Falcons waived OT Lamar Holmes off reserve/PUP with an injury settlement.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) December 5, 2015
Holmes was a third round project with the kind of size teams covet, but he never really developed the way the Falcons wanted him to. In 2013 he started 15 games and struggled frequently, while his 2014 season got off to a fine start before he went on injured reserve. This year, he landed on the reserve/PUP list before the season even started, which indicated the Falcons liked him enough to keep him around and see how he recovered. With no sign of Holmes' return heading into Week 13 against Tampa Bay, it appears he'll be moving on, and the Falcons have enough depth at tackle that this move doesn't have a big impact on the team in the here and now. I was always a Holmes booster and still think he can make a fine reserve for some team, but it won't be the Falcons.
Unfortunately, the 2012 draft class is an entirely lost cause. Peter Konz was let go before the season after disappointing years in Atlanta, fullback Bradie Ewing simply couldn't get healthy, defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi was a fan favorite who seemed to clash with the team, and sixth-and-seventh rounders Charles Mitchell and Travian Robertson simply didn't make a big impact. Right now, only Julio and Matt Bosher are left over from the 2011 and 2012 rosters, which effectively means the Falcons had two straight classes with very little to show for it. If you're looking at holes on the current roster and grumbling about them, it wouldn't be unfair to pin some of those woes on the drafting.