The Atlanta Falcons are used to a lack of positive media attention. It's one of the most endearing truths about this franchise: we're the perpetual underdogs. If I'm being honest, that doesn't bother me one bit. Sure, it'd be nice to get a little media hype. But it's not a necessary condition, and I can live without it.
ESPN released their list of the 100 best NFL players this week. It should come as no surprise that the Falcons weren't heavily featured. In fact, there was only one Falcon ranked in the top 20. They ranked Julio Jones 20th overall.
"He's as good as anybody if you assume he's on the field -- but you don't assume that," said an NFC evaluator. While Jones has missed at least a game in each of his first four seasons, he did play 15 times last year. And his output -- 104 catches and 1,593 yards -- seems like a good baseline for him over the next 4-5 years. "Big things are ahead," said one panelist. "He plays the league's easiest schedule this season."
Only one other Falcon was ranked in the top 100, and I'm guessing you can guess who that was. They ranked Matt Ryan 69th overall.
Over the past two seasons, Ryan has completed 67 percent of his throws for 9,209 yards. If this was a ranking of player value, he'd be in the top 25. Unfortunately, with a trainwreck defense over the past 32 games, the Falcons have won just 10 games, and it's hurting Ryan's legacy. "He's an offensive coordinator's dream to dial up plays for because he sticks to the process of playing quarterback," said one voter.
To be frank, aside from Matt Ryan's ranking, this seems about right. I can't really see how Ryan isn't a top 50 player. Desmond Trufant is the only other Falcon currently deserving a spot on this list. Give him another year, especially in Dan Quinn's system, and he should crack it. And keep in mind, this list is being formulated after two very lackluster campaigns for the Falcons. Of late we've earned this paltry showing.
Obviously this is just ESPN's viewpoint. Wins and losses are all that really matter, because the last time I checked, the Lombardi isn't awarded to the team with the most players on this list. Your thoughts?