Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 3/19/13
Atlanta may be one of the better teams in the NFL right now, but that certainly has not always been the case. In fact, more often than not, the Falcons have spent the end of the season wallowing in the lower half of the NFL standings. There can be a number of reasons for this lack of success, but bad drafting definitely ranks at the top, and the Falcons have had their fair sure of miscues.So, of their 47 years in the NFL, what ranks as the biggest mistake in Atlanta draft history, and who should they, or could they, have taken instead?The year was 1991, the Giants were the reigning Super Bowl champions and the Falcons were coming off a 5-11 season, earning the third pick in the draft for their troubles. After allowing 3913 yards and 31 TDs the season before, there was little surprise that the Falcons showed interest in a defensive back. Just this defensive back. The Falcons went the measurables route and chose Bruce Pickens of Nebraska, despite red flags regarding his experience. He was a former JUCO who played in the Big 8, a conference not known for its high octane passing attacks. That was the good bit!Pickens wasn't happy with the contract he was offered by Atlanta and held out - until October. To make matters even worse, as talks failed to go as he had hoped, he ordered his agent (well known Tom Condon) to call off the talks and initiate legal action. The Falcons finally gave in, and Pickens joined his team.Things didn't really get any better as, despite a much improved 10-6 record, opposing quarterbacks found Bruce to be "easy Pickens" and still threw 28 TDs. Pickens never improved, and hung around for a couple of seasons before being traded to Green Bay in 1995 after 4 games. The Packers swiftly sent him to Kansas City in the same year after appearing in 2 games and football appeared to give up on Pickens at the end of the season. He attempted a comeback with the Raiders in 1995, but only started one game and hasn't played since. He is easily one of the biggest wastes of a high first round pick in NFL history.What's even more galling is, the Rams picked up solid pro Todd Lyght just two picks later, while the outstanding Aeneas Williams was taken by Phoenix (for the oldies out there) in the third round! If they had gone after other positions, they could have picked up tackles Eric Swann (Phoenix again) or Ted Washington (49ers), safety Henry Burris (Buffalo) or excellent receiver (not a major need) Herman Moore (Detroit) in the first round alone.Here are some other Falcon draft busts who just missed the cut:Aundray Bruce - a number one pick who never really caught on with the Falcons (except maybe at TE), although he improved his reputation with the Raiders. Even so, it's hard not consider him one of the NFL's biggest busts.Joey Jones - he may have been a supplemental pick from the recently defunct USFL, but when you place first round expectations on someone, 11 games and 7 catches for 141 yards won't cut it. Good coach though.Joe Profit - Joe Loss would be more like it, as the seventh pick mustered just 471 yards and 3 TDs in three years. As a punishment for his failure to perform, he was traded to New Orleans, then spent the next two years in the WFL gulag. Jamaal Anderson - Anderson is still active in the league (Cincinnati), but his struggles with the Falcons with earn him a spot here. He had a sterling season as a junior at Arkansas and jumped at the opportunity to go pro, getting picked eighth. In his four years with the Falcons, he managed 4.5 sacks and was switched to defensive tackle, before being released and signed by Indianapolis.
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