Equally important are the six players who either have important roles now or are projected to start in the next 1 1/2 years. Receiver Roddy White, defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, linebacker Jordan Beck, defensive end Chauncey Davis and offensive tackle Frank Omiyale fit those categories.
The same goes for quarterback Matt Schaub, a third-round pick in 2004 who's 0-2 as a starter but considered worthy of bringing a high draft pick should the Falcons trade him in the coming offseason.
Previous drafts in 2002-03 under former coach Dan Reeves and departed personnel director Ron Hill yielded three starters in safety Bryan Scott, fullback Justin Griffith and left tackle Kevin Shaffer.
Running back T.J. Duckett, who hopes he can return from a high ankle sprain for the Nov. 6 game at Miami, has worked as a spot starter, but mostly he's been a productive backup and a touchdown magnet to complement starter Warrick Dunn. Reserve safety Kevin McCadam, a liability on defense, is a solid special teams player.
The difference between the two regimes, however, is more notable in the results of late-round picks. Reeves and Hill collectively drafted four receivers (Kahlil Hill, Michael Coleman, Jon Olinger and LaTarence Dunbar), one quarterback (Kurt Kittner), one guard (Martin Bibla), one defensive end (Demetrin Veal) and one safety (Waine Bacon) who either never made the team, were released or played their way out of the NFL.
Bibla at least stayed on the roster three years and played special teams, but if you add the acquisition of receiver Peerless Price in 2003 (a move spearheaded by owner Arthur Blank), that means the Falcons still watched eight draft picks sink. They traded a first-round spot to Buffalo to bring Price aboard and gave him a $10 million signing bonus.
McKay, on the other hand, has had just two players -- safety Etric Pruitt and running back Quincy Wilson -- provide a minimal return on the investment. What's equally impressive is McKay's decision to keep most of the scouts who worked under Reeves essentially in their same roles.
--RB T.J. Duckett hits the bye week at just the right time after Monday's game. A high sprain in his right ankle needs more time to heal. Duckett hopes he can return to practice and feel better in the days leading up to the Nov. 6 game at Miami.
--WR Roddy White showed recently in practice that he has the acumen and ability to create an extra burst of speed on deep routes to separate from coverage. If White can deliver such results in a game, he could add a missing link in the offense that would make Atlanta's league-best rushing attack more powerful.
--RT Todd Weiner has battled through a sore wrist, forearm and elbow, but he had to trust his instincts when deciding if he should play against the Saints in Week 6 and the Jets in Week 7. He hasn't missed a game since the team committed a $5.5 million signing bonus to him in March 2002, but injuries kept Weiner from a start later that year at New Orleans and forced him to leave the NFC title game prematurely last season.
--LDE Patrick Kerney measured the pain from a strained oblique muscle in Week 5 against the Patriots and decided he could contribute on third down. Kerney, always one of the team's best-conditioned players, was expected to extend his streak of consecutive games to 103 on Monday against the Jets.
--SS Keion Carpenter might not play another season if his production doesn't improve dramatically. Opponents simply don't fear crossing the middle against Atlanta because Carpenter is brittle and plays so deep. At least half of the blame belongs to FS Bryan Scott, too. Scott is out of position too frequently.
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