Ryan gives Falcons hope, new identity
Drafting Matt Ryan was the right move for the Falcons, a team in desperate need of a fresh face and someone capable of generating optimism, writes Pat Yasinskas.
When's the last time you saw an Atlanta quarterback smile? When's the last time you saw anybody with the Falcons smile?"It's exciting to be a Falcon,'' Ryan said. "I was pumped up when I received the phone call and I just can't wait to get to Atlanta.'' It's hard to find precise records, but it's believed those exact words have been uttered only once before in history -- by Steve Bartkowski, 33 years ago. This franchise never has had a lot of good days, but the past year has been particularly brutal. Franchise quarterback Michael Vick went to prison on dogfighting charges. Coach Bobby Petrino jumped to Arkansas in the middle of the night without telling his players. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall talked his way out of town, and running back Warrick Dunn and tight end Alge Crumpler -- about the only two remaining Falcons who would be recognized in an Atlanta mall -- were part of an offseason salary purge.
But this choice wasn't just about taking a passer who broke some of Doug Flutie's records and won a bunch of games.This was also about erasing the bitter memories of Vick and Petrino. Anyone who thought Vick might return to the Falcons after he's released from a federal penitentiary now can forget it. As a highly drafted quarterback, Ryan's going to face big expectations, although he's probably going to get a pretty significant grace period. But most importantly, Ryan's going to start with a clean slate. So are the Falcons.
Within minutes after the selection, the Falcons were selling Ryan jerseys on their Web site (No. 8 for $78.50). They'll sell some tickets down the road, too, and that had to factor heavily into that decision."To get a quarterback and a left tackle, I'm sure they're excited in Atlanta,'' Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden said. "They should be.'' This spring, excitement -- instead of indictment -- is the buzzword suddenly surrounding the Falcons. You've got to believe that's what Falcons owner Arthur Blank wanted, and needed, more than anything. Throughout the hiring of Smith and new general manager Thomas Dimitroff, it repeatedly was made clear the new tandem would have final say over football decisions, and that's a wonderful thing. It never came close to reaching the Daniel Snyder or Jerry Jones level, but Blank had been accused of getting too involved in football matters in the past. Drafting Ryan was a decision Smith, who has a defensive background, and Dimitroff, who was part of a New England front office that got franchise quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round, had a huge say in. Smith and Dimitroff knew what they were getting into when they took their jobs. They knew they had to get better football players. They knew they'd have to win some games and they knew they'd have to win back their fans. They knew football and business decisions would go hand in hand. Forget about final say for a second. The first big decision Smith and Dimitroff made really was the only one that made sense. Pat Yasinskas covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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2008 NFL DRAFT
The 2008 draft lasted 14 hours, 26 minutes. Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long (above), selected by Miami, was the No. 1 overall pick. This year's Mr. Irrelevant -- the last pick in the draft -- is David Vobora, a linebacker from Idaho selected by St. Louis with the 252nd pick.
Round-by-round, team-by-team picks• Round: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
• AFC East: Buffalo | Miami | N. England | NY Jets
• AFC North: Baltimore | Cinc. | Cleve. | Pitt.
• AFC South: Houston | Indy | Jax | Tennessee
• AFC West: Denver | K.C. | Oakland | San Diego
• NFC East: Dallas | NYG | Philadephia | Wash.
• NFC North: Chicago | Detroit | G.B. | Minnesota
• NFC South: Atlanta | Carolina | N.O. | Tampa
• NFC West: Arizona | S.F. | St. Louis | Seattle
Inside Radio City Music Hall• Panoramic views
Commentary/Features• Wickersham: Bears, Ravens take opposite turns
• Williamson: Remembering Heath Benedict
• Yasinskas: Falcons should be patient with Ryan
• Clayton: Six draft trends
• Chadiha: 10 great marriages
• Walker: NFC East draft review
• Sando: NFC West draft review
• Willamson: NFC North draft review
• Yasinskas: NFC South draft review
• Sando: AFC East draft review
• Williamson: AFC West draft review
• Walker: AFC North draft review
• Yasinskas: AFC South draft review
• Clayton: Day 1 winners and losers
• Williamson: Davis couldn't resist McFadden
• Walker: Ravens had to work for Flacco
• Sando: Long addresses Rams' D-line needs
• Chadiha: AFC East hustle continues on draft day
• Yasinskas: Ryan gives Falcons hope, identity
Mel Kiper• Kiper's team-by-team draft grades
• Day 1 good, bad moves: Questionable Titans
News• 2008 breaks previous trade record
• Jets sign NCAA career rushing leader Woodhead
• Lions pick Smith with first pick of second day
• Miami, Long make it official | NFL Local
Video• Green: First-round pick instant analysis
• Complete draft analysis
• One-on-one with Jake Long
• One-on-one with Chris Long
• One-on-one with Matt Ryan
• One-on-one with Darren McFadden
• One-on-one with Glenn Dorsey
• One-on-one with Vernon Gholston
• Ed Werder on Cowboys
• Norv Turner interview
• Fantasy Spin
Audio• Jake Long | Chris Long | Matt Ryan
• Darren McFadden | Vernon Gholston
• Glenn Dorsey | Keith Rivers | Chris Williams
• Lawrence Jackson
SportsNation• Vote: Best first-round pick? | Potential busts?
• Grades: How did your team fare?
Scouts Inc.• Analysis: Round 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
Cheat Sheets: RB | DL | DB | LB | OL | REC | QB
• McShay: Seven-round mock draft
• Revisiting the 2005 draft | 2005 re-draft