Atlanta Falcons' all-time Mount Rushmore: 4 best players in franchise history

The Atlanta Falcons joined the NFL in 1965 as an expansion team.

During their existence, the Falcons have appeared in two Super Bowls. The first came back in 1998 during Super Bowl XXXIII when they fell to John Elway and the Denver Broncos, and most recently, 2016 NFL MVP quarterback Matt Ryan led the Falcons into Super Bowl LI against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, where they fell 34-28 in overtime, despite leading 28-3 late in the third quarter.

Atlanta has had some Hall of Fame-worthy players since its inception, but who would make a Mount Rushmore of Falcons players? Take a look at the list below.

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DEION SANDERS

Deion Sanders is arguably the greatest cornerback in NFL history. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Deion Sanders is arguably the greatest cornerback in NFL history. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Deion Sanders, nicknamed "Prime Time," was the No. 5 overall pick in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Falcons. Sanders, who spent five seasons with Atlanta, was a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro selection as a cornerback, and a first-team All-Pro honoree as a kick returner with the team.

During his time with the Falcons, Sanders had 24 interceptions, which included a career-high seven INTs in 1993, and three were returned for touchdowns. Sanders also had success elsewhere when he played for the San Francisco 49ers (1994) and Dallas Cowboys (1995-1999).

Sanders, the 1994 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was a two-time Super Bowl champion and is a member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade first-team as both a cornerback and punt returner.

MATT RYAN

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was the 2016 NFL MVP. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was the 2016 NFL MVP. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Matt Ryan, the best quarterback in the history of the franchise, was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. In 2016, Ryan was a first-team All-Pro selection and was awarded the NFL MVP when he threw for 4,944 yards, an NFL record 9.3 passing yards per attempt, 38 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions.

Ryan has four Pro Bowls under his belt, and he is the Falcons' leader in quarterback wins (109), completions (3,630), passing yards (38,568), passing touchdowns (244), and passer rating (93.7).

In 2020, Ryan will enter his 13th season under center for the Falcons.

JULIO JONES

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Julio Jones, one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, has already cemented himself as the best at the position in the franchise's history. Jones was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and in nine seasons, he is a seven-time Pro Bowler, two-time first-team All-Pro, and three-time second-team All-Pro selection.

In 2015, Jones led the league with 136 receptions and 1,871 yards. He also led the NFL with 1,677 receiving yards in 2018, and his 96.2 receiving yards per game average for his career is the best in league history.

Since entering the NFL, Jones has more receiving yards than any other player at the position.

TOMMY NOBIS

Falcons all-time great linebacker Tommy Nobis was a member of the NFL 1960s All-Decade team. (Photo by Bob Verlin/Getty Images)

Falcons all-time great linebacker Tommy Nobis was a member of the NFL 1960s All-Decade team. (Photo by Bob Verlin/Getty Images)

Tommy Nobis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1966 NFL Draft, became the first player drafted by the Falcons when they entered the league as an expansion franchise.

Also known as "Mr. Falcon," Nobis spent 11 seasons with Atlanta. In 1966, he was honored as the NFL's Rookie of the Year and was voted to his first Pro Bowl. He finished that season with 294 combined tackles, which is the team's all-time single-season record, and it's unofficially the most tackles credited to one player in NFL history. From 1994 to 2001 tackles were statistically recorded, but it didn't become an official stat until 2001.

Nobis was a five-time Pro Bowler, first-team All-Pro selection in 1967, and second-team All-Pro choice in 1968. Nobis was a member of the NFL's 1960s All-Decade team. The Falcons retired his No. 60 jersey, and he is a member of the franchise's Ring of Honor. The only honor missing from his resume is "Pro Football Hall of Famer," but the Falcons recently put out a letter making a case for his candidacy.

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