ESPN conducted a poll asking 50 experts, analysts, and reporters who the best ever was at each position, and former Atlanta Falcons cornerback Deion Sanders locked down the No. 1 spot at cornerback.
Atlanta made Sanders the No. 5 overall pick in a historic 1989 NFL Draft that included No. 1 Troy Aikman, the incredible bust Tony Mandarich at No. 2, Barry Sanders at No. 3, and the late Derrick Thomas at No. 4.
Sanders played five seasons with the Falcons in the Rankin Smith ownership era when the Falcons top players tended to move on. Sanders won Super Bowls with the Cowboys and 49ers.
“Sanders’ combination of bravado, talent and desire to win could be seen every time he played. He wasn’t consistently challenged by opposing quarterbacks but still finished his career with 53 interceptions, including two in his final season at 38 years old. And that total was impacted by a three-year retirement (2001-2003). Sanders intercepted six passes in 1994 — his only season with the 49ers — and returned three of them for touchdowns. And it’s worth pointing out that he played in 641 games for four teams in his Major League Baseball career and led the league in triples in 1992. — Jeff Legwold, ESPN
Sanders definitely brought swagger to a Falcons team that desperately lacked any. The Falcons had one winning season in the 80’s… 1980…
Sanders helped take the Falcons back to the playoffs in 1991 under Jerry Glanville, but with only one winning season in Sanders’ five years, he left perennial winners San Francisco and then Dallas.
“In his prime, Sanders shut down half the field — whenever he wasn’t busy playing baseball instead. And his legend is based on all the passes that weren’t thrown in his direction, not on gaudy interception or passes defensed totals.” — Aaron Schatz, Football Outsiders on ESPN
Sanders made his return to Atlanta with the 49ers and got into a good-natured scrap with receiver Andre Rison… probably not the first time, but for the first time on national television.
Any best ever list is debatable. What isn’t debatable is that Deion Sanders is one of the most gifted players to ever suit up for the Atlanta Falcons and in the NFL.