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Falcons Uniform History, #24: A list of talented misfits

This particular long list leaves a lot to be desired, due to players being signed at the end of their respective careers' or not panning out.

Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Many players have worn the number 24 in Atlanta, yet none of them have evolved into being stars. These players consist of failing to develop as highly-touted prospects or clearly on the decline. It was odd to see not one star out of 23 players on the list. You will see some solid contributors, along with a potential rising star at the running back position.

FS: Patrick Bates

The former first-round pick (twelfth pick overall) had a short-lived career in Atlanta. After three underwhelming seasons in Oakland, Bates was traded in 1996 and preceded to lose his starting job in a matter of weeks. Oakland received a second-round pick from that trade. It was a rare achievement for them to be on the positive end of a lopsided move. On a list dating back to 2008, Bates was ranked as the 37th biggest bust in NFL history.

CB: Terry Cousin

Not many players can claim that they played for seven different teams. Cousin lasted only one season in Atlanta. The former Miami Hurricane was signed in 2000 following three lackluster seasons in Chicago. He failed to make an impact in Atlanta and signed with Miami afterwards.

RB/KR: Larry Emery

Emery was drafted in the twelfth round during the 1987 draft. Despite being a running back in college, he only returned kickoffs for one season. He was cut after that season and never played in the NFL again.

CB: Dominique Foxworth

We finally arrive to an actual positive contributor on this list. Atlanta traded a seventh round pick to acquire him in 2008. It was a surprising move, given that the season started one week later. Foxworth ended up stepping in for the overwhelmed Brent Grimes at the time. He provided actual stability and embraced the challenge in covering the opposing team’s top receiver. Thomas Dimitroff didn’t feel the need to give him a max contract, despite being the only competent cornerback on the roster. That ended up being a wise move; as Foxworth was burnt repeatedly during his first season in Baltimore. Persistent knee problems hampered his career, which led to him retiring at 29 years old.

CB: Dominique Franks

Franks never lived up to the promise of being better than a fifth-round talent. Many draft analysts considered him to be a hidden gem, as a potential cover corner and explosive punt returner. Neither label ended up coming into fruition. He struggled in man coverage, particularly inside the slot. Franks was far too conservative as a punt returner during the 2012 season. That led to his demotion and eventually being cut from the team in 2013. He didn't fare well in Baltimore either.

RB: Devonta Freeman

If everything goes according to plan, he should be the player that fans will remember as the most memorable number 24 in Falcons’ history.  Freeman will have his opportunity this year to command 15-18 touches per game. It shouldn’t surprise anyone, if Freeman becomes the best player on this list in two years.

CB: Conrad Hamilton

The former seventh round pick played only one season in Atlanta. After five insignificant seasons playing for the New York Giants, Hamilton signed with Atlanta in 2001. He was released after that season and wasn’t signed by any other team.

RB: Byron Hanspard

Hanspard was one of the more promising players on the list. The former second-round pick was expected to bring explosiveness to an offense starving for playmakers in 1997. After a severe knee injury in 1998, Hanspard failed to regain his explosiveness. Despite Jamal Anderson missing most of the 1999 season, Hanspard disappointed by averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. He was cut during the pre-season in 2000. After two healthy seasons, the second-round pick ended up being one of the more notable busts in Atlanta throughout the 1990’s.

CB: Tye Hill

Similar to Foxworth, Hill was traded for a seventh round pick right before the 2009 season began. Unfortunately, his play never evolved from the three seasons of being torched at St. Louis. The former Clemson Tiger never displayed the shutdown cover skills that propelled him towards being a first round pick. Besides returning an interception for a touchdown against Washington, Hill was repeatedly picked on and was released after that season. His career ended in 2010 following an unsuccessful stint in Detroit.

FS: Chris Hope

The one-time Pro Bowler was brought in for depth purposes during the 2012 season.  He was mostly reduced to special team duties, until William Moore was injured during the last month of the season. Hope failed to make an impact and wasn’t re-signed in the off-season. His career ended following that season.

CB: Floyd Hudlow

Hudlow played two seasons for Atlanta between 1967-1968. Other than having two interceptions in the 1967 season, Hudlow’s impact was minimal and was out of the league by 1969.

KR: Kent Lawrence

Philadelphia selected Lawrence in the ninth round during the 1969 draft. After struggling as a kick returner, Atlanta gave him an opportunity. That decision proved to be ineffective and Lawrence was out of the league by 1971.

CB: Brian Mitchell

Not to be confused with the legendary kick returner, Mitchell played three seasons at cornerback. The former seventh round pick was mostly anonymous and wasn’t brought following the 1993 season.

RB: Shelley Poole

Poole played one game for Atlanta during the 1987 season. He was cut the following season and wasn’t signed by any other team.

RB: Mike Pringle

Unlike the recent players that have been mentioned, Pringle ended up having a solid career following one unsuccessful season in Atlanta. He won the "Most Outstanding Player" award twice in the CFL.  The former Washington State Cougar ended up playing 14 seasons in Canada. That has to be considered as an impressive achievement, especially for a running back.

SS: Bryan Scott

There aren’t many versatile players on this list like Scott. He was capable of playing both safety positions before converting towards being a outside linebacker in Buffalo. Scott was solid through his first two seasons in Atlanta. Then, he had shoulder surgery following the 2004 season. His play declined dramatically and was benched during the latter part of the 2005 season. His demise was certified by being traded to New Orleans for Wayne Gandy in 2006. A trade to New Orleans showcases a bitter end for the once-promising prospect.

RB: Jimmy Sidle

The 1963 SEC player of the year couldn’t translate his success to the pros. After one injury-prone season in Dallas, he was sold in the expansion draft to Atlanta. The former fourth-round pick wasn’t fast enough to play running back and was waived after one season.

RB: Haskel Stanback

No player wore the number 24 longer than Stanback. Atlanta was fortunate to have him as the starting running back for six seasons from 1974 to 1979. The former Tennessee Volunteer contributed significantly towards the playoff run in 1978. They beat Philadelphia before losing to Dallas in the divisional round. Stanback was eventually plagued by injuries and had to retire early. He will always be remembered as a quality role player.

CB: Terry Taylor

Taylor is one of the more notable older players on the list. Unfortunately, Atlanta couldn’t acquire him until he was 34 years old. Taylor was a decent signing by contributing with three interceptions. After twelve seasons, it’s extremely difficult for a cornerback to keep playing at a high level. He ended his career in Atlanta, which has become the norm throughout this list.

RB: Joe Washington

A top-five pick has made the list, although he falls in the same category as Taylor. Washington was another talented player that didn’t end up in Atlanta, until he was on the decline. The former Oklahoma Sooner never quite lived up to gaudy expectations. That shouldn’t discredit his contributions, particularly with the Washington Redskins. Washington was mostly a non-factor during his one season in Atlanta. His career ended following the 1985 season.

CB: Fred Weary

Despite playing one season in Atlanta, Weary was fortunate enough to be on the 2002 playoff team. The former Florida Gator was limited to mostly nickel and dime packages. He never made much of an impact and signed with St. Louis in 2003. For some odd reason, his name stands out for being on that special team.

CB/S: Jimmy Williams

The prized selection from the 2006 draft, despite falling into the second round. John Abraham consumed Atlanta's first round pick, which was easily the best decision from that draft. Many fans were intrigued by the 2005 All-American cornerback, who could also play safety as well. Williams ended up being too slow to play cornerback and not physical enough to play safety. He never ascended up the depth chart, as the likes of Allen Rossum and Erik Coleman were trusted more than him. Williams was released in 2008, due to being overweight and having substance issues. San Francisco gave him an opportunity, but weight issues plagued him once again. His NFL career ended on being suspended for a year, due to violating the substance abuse policy again. After being touted as a top-ten pick at one point, Williams career spiraled down into obscurity.

CB: Nate Wright

Wright only played three games in the 1969 season for Atlanta. He eventually went back to St. Louis, which was the original team that drafted him.

Final Verdict

On a list featuring clear-cut contender, it came down to Stanback and Scott. Stanback isn't a house-hold name, but managed to be a solid contributor for more than a few seasons. Nobody on the list can truly say that. Scott had two decent seasons before being traded for an aging left tackle. Consistency and reliability deserve to be rewarded. Stanback showcased that in his Falcon career. Nobody on that list can prove that, although Freeman can very well change that within the next three seasons. For now, Haskelback was the best player to represent the number 24 in Atlanta.