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2016 NFL Draft: The first round is the sweet spot for the Atlanta Falcons

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An encouraging note as we try to figure out what lies ahead for Atlanta.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas Dimitroff's draft history is the source of much derision and angst for Falcons fans, and picks like Dezmen Southward, Prince Shembo, and Peter Konz are the primary reasons why. Without completely rehashing this team's draft history under the Comrade, it's fair to say the struggles the team has had in landing competent second, third, and fourth round picks in particular has been a major cause of the team's struggles in recent years.

The first round, though? That's a different story.

The Cowboys' blog on SB Nation put together a good luck at team-by-team success in the first three rounds, noting that Atlanta from 2010-2014 had the third-highest success rate in those rounds based on players who became "primary starters," i.e. starters that played at least eight games in a season. That doesn't speak to quality, and you would rightfully point out that players like Lamar Holmes and Peter Konz don't count as successes. But take a hard look at the first round since Dimitroff got here.

2008: QB Matt Ryan
2009: DT Peria Jerry
2010: LB Sean Weatherspoon
2011: WR Julio Jones
2013: CB Desmond Trufant
2014: T Jake Matthews
2015: DE/LB Vic Beasley

Jerry suffered a catastrophic injury that basically wrecked his career and made it impossible to determine whether he would have had any success in Atlanta, and Weatherspoon was bitten hard by the injury bug as well, though he was never the elite linebacker I hoped he would be. Aside from that, though, you have a franchise quarterback, one of the NFL's best receivers (albeit on a massive trade up), one of the league's best young cornerbacks, one of the league's best young tackles, and a promising young pass rusher. The Falcons, in other words, have routinely hit on their first round picks.

As the Falcons attempt to rejoin the world of playoff contention with just five draft picks and $25 or so million in cap space to work with, nailing that first rounder will be incredibly critical for the team's long-term prospects. If you're not feeling overly confident about the team's offseason plans—and look, nobody blames you if that's the case—you can at least feel good about the team's chances of landing an impact player in the first round.

Now the question is who.