The 2019 NFL Draft begins later this week, so I viewed this as a good time to review some of the more memorable draft trades in Atlanta Falcons history. The team has been rumored to be interested in possibly moving up to select a defensive lineman, so let’s review some of the more interesting draft trades that they’ve pulled the trigger on thus far.
5.) 1985 NFL Draft
In the 1985 NFL Draft, the Falcons held the 4th overall selection. They really wanted to select Bill Fralic, the talented guard out of the University of Pittsburgh. The team moved their 1st round pick (4th overall) and 3rd round pick to the Minnesota Vikings for the 2nd overall pick. The Falcons moved up two spots and selected Fralic, who would go on to spend eight seasons in Atlanta, being an All-Pro in 1986-1987, and Pro Bowler from 1986-1989.
The trade worked out well for the Minnesota Vikings also, who selected Pro Football Hall of Famer DE Chris Doleman. He should be no stranger to Falcons fans, as Doleman played for the Falcons from 1994-1995.
What makes this trade interesting is that the Falcons knew who they wanted, and went after him. You can question the move, and wonder why they didn’t stay put at 4, but Fralic could’ve been gone. The trade worked out well for both football teams, and more importantly the Falcons had a right guard who would eventually been selected to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team.
4.) 1990 NFL Draft
One of the more questionable draft trades in Atlanta Falcons history has to be in the 1990 NFL Draft. The Dallas Cowboys held the first overall pick, but it was forfeited as the team selected QB Steve Walsh in the previous supplemental draft. That moved the Falcons up to the first overall selection in 1990. With Pro Football Hall of Famer’s LB Junior Seau and DT Cortez Kennedy available the Falcons decided to trade their pick, along with their fourth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts. In exchange, the Falcons received WR Andre Rison, OT Chris Hinton, a 1990 fifth-round pick, and a first-round pick in the 1991 NFL Draft.
The Colts used the first overall selection on Illinois quarterback Jeff George. Again, Falcons fans should be no stranger to Jeff George who was eventually traded to the Falcons four years later, for the Falcons first-round and third-round picks in 1994, and their first-round pick in 1996. The Falcons selected OT Reggie Redding in the fifth-round of the 1990 NFL Draft, and WR Mike Pritchard with the first-round pick the following year.
This trade was questionable, even now, considering what the Falcons potentially gave up. Although it’s worth noting that Chris Hinton was an All-Pro in 1993, and a Pro Bowler in 1991. Andre Rison would become one of the better wide receivers in Atlanta Falcons history, where he had four Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro selection. The Falcons giving up the farm for Jeff George four years later is an entirely different conversation.
3.) 1975 NFL Draft
Following one of the more questionable draft trades in Atlanta Falcons history, comes one of the best. The team was really wanting a quarterback, and a good one was available. The Falcons traded their OT George Kunz and their first-round pick (3rd overall) to the Baltimore Colts for the first overall selection in the 1975 NFL Draft.
With that pick, the Falcons selected what would be their best quarterback until the modern era, QB Steve Bartkowski out of California. Bartkowski would quarterback the team to its first ever playoff appearance in 1978. He would hold many of the Falcons passing records until Matt Ryan came along.
This trade is interesting because the Falcons may have given up a quality offensive tackle in George Kunz, but they received what would be their version of John Elway, Terry Bradshaw, Dan Marino, etc. Sure, he didn’t win a Super Bowl, but he helped get Atlanta over the playoff hump.
2.) 2011 NFL Draft
Some fans (for some reason) still complain about this trade, but the 2011 NFL Draft is a memorable one for the Falcons. Coming off a 13-3 season in 2010, the Falcons were determined to make a splash in the draft. The Falcons sent the Cleveland Browns a first-round pick (27th overall), a second-round pick (59th overall) and a fourth-round pick (124th overall) in 2011, and also included a first-round pick (22nd overall) and fourth-round pick (118th overall) in 2012. With all that, the Falcons were able to select WR Julio Jones with the 6th overall selection.
With the picks the Falcons gave up, the Browns were able to select: NT Phil Taylor, WR Greg Little, RB Owen Marecic, QB Brandon Weeden, and RB Trent Richardson.
How did it go for the Falcons? Well, Julio Jones is not only one of the most dominant wide receivers in NFL history, but he’s also projected to finish his career as the best wide receiver in Atlanta Falcons history. The move easily could’ve backfired on GM Thomas Dimitroff had Julio been a bust, or if any of the Browns players amounted to anything above being average at best.
1.) 2001 NFL Draft
Widely viewed as the biggest draft moment in franchise history, the Falcons traded with the San Diego Chargers a day before the 2001 NFL Draft to move up to the first overall spot. With the first overall selection, the Falcons selected QB Michael Vick who is often regarded as the most mobile quarterback in NFL history.
In exchange for the first overall pick, the Falcons sent WR Tim Dwight, their first-round pick (5th overall) and second-round pick in 2001, and their second-round pick in 2002. With the 5th pick, the Chargers selected Pro Football Hall of Fame RB LaDainian Tomlinson.
The trade worked out for both team, but specifically the Falcons got a quarterback who would energize the fanbase, and put Falcons football back on the map. Although Vick only spent 6 seasons in Atlanta before his off the field issues led to a suspension and jail time, he’s still one of the most popular players in franchise history. Michael Vick is still (thus far) the only QB to ever rush for over 1,000 yards in an NFL season.
Well that does it folks. With the 2019 NFL Draft coming up soon, maybe in the future we’ll talk about the time the Falcons moved up for DT Ed Oliver or DE Joey Bosa? We’ll find out on April 25, 2019.