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2008 NFL Draft Review: Curtis Lofton, The Next Link In The Chain

Round two, pick 37: Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma LB

Also available: WR Desean Jackson, RB Ray Rice, CB Tracy Porter, QB Brian Brohm, QB Chad Henne

The Atlanta Falcons aren’t known for much, but a close look into their history reveals they should be known for having strong inside linebackers. The tradition in the middle of the Falcons defense is one of the few things about the team’s past that the Falcons fan can point to with absolute pride. The first-ever Falcon, middle linebacker Tommy Nobis, should be a Hall of Famer, with multiple contemporaries proclaiming him better than Dick Butkus.

The year after his retirement the team posted the best scoring defense in NFL history, with 1977 MLB Ralph Ortega forcing an absurd nine turnovers in 14 games. 1980 featured two Falcons inside linebackers, Buddy Curry and Al Richardson, splitting Rookie of the Year honors. The rest of the decade did not happen, five-time Pro Bowler Jessie Tuggle passed the torch to five-time Pro Bowler Keith Brooking, and here we are. If we recall that the 1980’s did not happen, there have only been a couple years in Falcons history that didn’t feature very good-to-excellent inside linebackery.

And that’s where Curtis Lofton comes in. The Falcons let Brooking go after Lofton’s first season, having bumped the vet back to OLB to let the rookie take the middle. He’s improved in both years since, and has a chance to post his second-straight 100-tackle season this year. This offseason he lamented his lack of big plays, and with two games to go has already equaled or topped his previous season highs in sacks, forced fumbles, and passes defensed, plus grabbed his first career pick.

The Police, as he’s been dubbed by Sean Weatherspoon (because nobody gets away from the police), had no problem putting up big plays in college. Expect to see more and more of this over the years, and expect the one position at which the Falcons have a great legacy to remain in good hands:

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.