Best Atlanta Falcons all-time draft pick: Quarterback

Jeremy Johnson

One has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the National Football League for the last 12 years, the other became a national phenomenon, then a national pariah and then a comeback for the ages.

The conversation about the Atlanta Falcons’ best draft pick at the quarterback position begins and ends with Matt Ryan and Michael Vick.

Ryan was selected third overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. Over 12 seasons he’s been steady as they come. Ryan has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in nine of his 12 seasons and now insert the rest of Ryan’s states that are very impressive, but don’t win him this conversation.

Vick is the Falcons’ best draft pick at the quarterback position. Ryan is the better quarterback, has accomplished more as a quarterback and has won more games than Vick did in his NFL career.

Vick was the number one overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. He lived up to that billing and selection. Vick didn’t win the Falcons a SuperBowl.

From a football standpoint, when teams select a quarterback first overall in a draft they envision him holding a Lombardi Trophy one day in the future.

If we’re being completely honest, the Falcons never surrounded Vick with the necessary talent to finish the deal and in the years since, Vick has admitted his commitment to the playbook didn't help catapult his development either. Vick never really got an opportunity to top his performance of the 2006 season. That season Vick ran for 1,039 yards, making him the first quarterback to run for over 1,000 yards in modern NFL history.

The Falcons made attempts to feature Vick as more of a passer. They added Peerless Price from the Buffalo Bills to take over as the top target for to begin to unlock Vick as a passer prior to the 2003 season. Vick missed much of that season with a broken leg before helping the Falcons to the NFC Championship game in 2004.

That didn’t really work in a sense of turning Vick into an elite passer. Price caught 154 passes in two seasons with the team for 1,413 yards.

Despite the things that never got accomplished in his time in Atlanta, Vick changed the culture of the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons quickly became the cool thing in Atlanta. Number 7 jerseys blanketed the Georgia Dome, the schools, the parties in the nightclubs and music videos for five years. 

Vick’s impact went beyond the football field. He was the one of the most exciting players to play the quarterback position. Pockets broke down and the fans rouse to their feet because Vick was at his best when chaos floated around him and he unleashed sub 4.3 speed and electric elusiveness on defenses.

He was the ‘Michael Vick Experience,’. He was hip hop and pop culture in the fast growing-hub of hip hop in a time when sports and hip hop began to blend.

Vick was Atlanta. The city was looking for a hero that it could relate to. Vick was the first African-American quarterback selected with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. Vick's play was revolutionary for an entire generation of young African-American quarterbacks. The results of that revolution has begun to make its mark on the NFL the last few years with the emergence of players like reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, former MVP Cam Newton (from Atlanta, GA) and superstar Deshaun Watson, who is from Gainesville, GA.

Things ended with Vick’s arrest for his role in a Virginia dog fighting ring. Even during the years following the Vick’s departure from Atlanta and Ryan’s success, support of Vick remains as does the anger and controversy that followed his nearly two-year sentence.

With all of the ups and downs of his tenure in Atlanta, Vick’s presence in Atlanta transcended the perception around the franchise.