Saturday, November 18, 2017

Atlanta Falcons All-Time All-Rookie Team

By John Turney

This year we are picking All-Time All-Rookie squads for each of the NFL franchises. Today the Falcons get our treatment:
Eric Weems and Elbert Shelly, the two stalwart special teams demons didn't have great rookie years since they didn't play a lot of games, but some others, Michael Boley, Akeem Dent, Jessie Tuggle and Ralph Ortega was players who got down the field, made tackles and played extremely hard so they get the special teams slots. Boley, an All-Rookie pick, gets the First-team slot and Dent (also All-Rookie) gets the Second-team slot. Tuggle and Ortega both get an honorable mention. Boley also started 11 games and performed well at linebacker.

The kickers, both of whom had 5-field goal games to beat the Rams, are Nick Mike-Mayer and Tim Mazzetti. Mike-Mayer was All-Rookie and the NFC Pro Bowl kicker and an All-NFC selection in 1973. Also, the Falcons have three honorable mentions:  Mick Luckhurst, 1981 (All-Rookie), and Jay Feely, 2001 (All-Rookie). Greg Davis, (1988 All-Rookie by Football Digest)

John James, 1972 (All-Rookie), is the top punter followed by Rick Donnelly, 1985. The honorable mentions are Michael Koenen, 2005 (36.9 net average) and Harold Alexander, 1993 (37.6 net) and Matt Bosher, 2011 (All-Rookie)

Deion Sanders, 1989, and Derrick Vaughn, 2000 (All-Rookie), are the First-team punt- and kick returners. The Second teamers are Harry Douglass (1985) and Byron Hanspard, 1997 (All-Rookie).

Dennis Pearson, 1978 (26.5 avg and 1 TD) and Tim Dwight, 1998 (All-Rookie, 27.0 average and  1 TD) are the honorable mention kick returners. The punt return honorable mention is Gerald Tinker, (1974, 13.9 average and 1 TD).

Robert Alford, 2013, is the nickel back followed by Chevis Jackson, 2008. The designated pass rusher for the All-Rookie team is Mike Pitts, 1983 (All-Rookie, 7 sacks), followed by Marcus Cotton, 1988 (5 sacks).

Strong safety goes to Roger Harper, 1993 (All-Rookie, 112 tackles), and he's backed up by Robert Moore, 1986. The free safety First- and Second-teamers are Bret Clark, 1986, and Tom Pridemore, 1978. There are three honorable mentions at safety—Ray Brown, 1971, Keanu Neal, 2016, and Clarence Ellis, 1972, Willie Germany, 1972 (Football Digest All-Rookie), James Britt (1983, Football Digest All-Rookie), and Devin Bush, 1995 (All-Rookie)

Deion Sanders, 1989 (All-Rookie, 5 picks, 2 forced fumbles), and Bobby Butler, 1981 (5 picks), are the cornerbacks, backed by Desmond Trufant, 2013 (All-Rookie, 60 tackles, 2 INTs), and Kenny Johnson, 1980 (All-Rookie). Butler would have gotten more acclaim for his rookie season but Ronnie Lott and Everson Walls took the lion's share of awards that season.

There are five honorable mentions at corner:  Rudy Redmond, 1969 (41 tackles, 5 interceptions), Tom Hayes, 1971 (All-Rookie), Frank Reed, 1976 (46 tackles, 29 passes defensed, Second-team All-Rookie) Chris Houston, 2007, Brian Poole, 2016, and DeAngelo Hall, 2004.

Tommy Nobis, 1966 (NFL Rookie of the Year, 125 tackles, 5 sacks), is the middle linebacker, the 3-4 inside linebacker is Buddy Curry, 1980 (145 tackles, 3 INTs, 14 passes defensed and a scoop and score, co-Defensive Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie). They are backed by Curtis Lofton, 2008 (All-Rookie, 87 tackles), (middle) and Jim Laughlin, 1980 (42 tackles) (inside). 

For outside linebackers, we chose Al Richardson, 1980 (co-Defensive Rookie of the Year with Curry, All-Rookie, 84 tackles, 7 interceptions, 3 fumbles recovered one for a touchdown) and Deion Jones, 2016 (All-rookie, 106 tackles, 3 picks, 3 for TDs). The Second-teamers are Robert Pennywell, 1977 (86 tackles, 6½ stuffs), Aundray Bruce, 1988 (6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, All-Rookie) 

The honorables are John Rade, 1983 (All-Rookie), Darion Conner, 1990, Henri Crockett, 1997, and Paul Worrilow, 2013 (All-Rookie), Vic Beasley, 2015 (PFJ All-Pro)

Rick Bryan, 1984, Tony Casillas, 1986, a pair of All-Rookie selections are the defensive tackles followed by Tory Epps, 1990 (All-Rookie), and Moe Gardner, 1991 (All-Rookie), on our Second-team. Greg Lens, 1970 (36 tackles, 6½ sacks), and Andrew Provence, 1983 (All-Rookie) are the honorable mentions.

Claude Humphrey, 1968, (NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year) and John Zook, 1969 (44 tackles, 9½ sacks), are the First-team flanks, and the Second-teamers are Don Smith, 1979 (35 tackles, 9 sacks), and Jeff Merrow, 1975, with Jamaal Anderson, 2007, and Mike Gann, 1985, as the honorable mentions. Humphrey got some All-Pro notice and had 47 tackles, 11½ sacks and five forced fumbles.

The First-team offensive line is composed of Calvin Collins, 1997 (All-Rookie), center with guards Bill Fralic, 1985 (All-Rookie), and Lincoln Kennedy, 1993 (All-Rookie), with George Kunz, 1969 (Pro Bowl), and Mike Kenn, 1978 (All-Rookie), at tackles. As noted, four of the five were All-Rookie selections and the only reason it wasn't five for five is that in 1969 there was no major publication making All-Rookie selections. Kunz did go to the Pro Bowl as a replacement and was regarded as the top rookie tackle in the NFL that season.

The Second-team offensive line is as follows:  James Stone, 2014,  center, R.C. Thielemann, 1977 (All-Rookie), and Justin Blalock, 2007, at guard and Ephraim Salaam, 1998 (All-Rookie), and Jake Matthews, 2014 (All-Rookie), the tackles.

Guards Travis Claridge, 2000 (Football News All-Rookie), and Dennis Havig, 1972 (All-Rookie), plus tackles Houston Hoover, 1988, and Warren Bryant, 1977, and John Scully, (1981 All-Rookie) and Peter Konz, 2012,  are the honorable mentions.

Junior Miller, 1980 (All-Rookie), is the First-team tight end and Jim Mitchell, 1969, is Second-team with Alge Crumpler, 2001 (Football News All-Rookie), Cliff Benson,1984 (All-Rookie), Austin Hooper, (2016) the HMs 

Matt Ryan, 2008 (All-Rookie), is the clear number one quarterback and he's backed but Second-team choice Steve Bartkowski, 1975 (All-Rookie), with Randy Johnson,1966, the honorable mention along with Doug Johnson, 2000 (All-Rookie)

William Andrews, 1979 (All-Rookie), and Steve Broussard, 1990, are the running backs and they are backed up by Bubba Bean, 1976, and Jerious Norwood, 2006. Andrews is the star of this group rushing for over 1,000 yards and catching 39 passes.

At wideout Julio Jones, 2011 (All-Rookie), and Ken Burrow, 1971, are the picks. Their backups are Alfred Jenkins, 1975, and Shawn Collins, 1989 (All-Rookie). At honorable mention, we went with Alfred Jackson, (1978), Mike Pritchard,1991 (All-Rookie) and Bert Emanuel, 1994.

Burrow caught 33 passes for 741 yards and a 22.5-yard average and 6 touchdowns while Julio Jones, despite missing three games had 54 receptions for 959 yards and a 17.8-yard average with 8 touchdowns.Jenkins was close to Burrow in numbers:  38 catches for 767 yards and a 20.2-yard average and 6 touchdowns while Collins totaled 58 catches for 862 yards.

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