ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 07: Kroy Biermann #71 of the Atlanta Falcons walks out of the tunnel during defensive player introductions before facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Georgia Dome on November 7 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
This is the first in a series of posts taking a look back at Falcons drafted under the current regime. As is the case with most of my series, expect this to be sporadic.
It's fair to say that my expectations for Kroy Biermann were low.
As a fifth-round pick out of Montana, and a guy listed at OLB, he was not my first choice for the slot. The Falcons seemed set with emerging Stephen Nicholas and good ol' Michael Boley at OLB, and Biermann did not have any stand-out skills. Here's what I said at the time:
He's not overly big, which means he doesn't match up well against bruising running backs or strong tackles. He'll likely need others to tie up the offensive line for him to be truly effective. His better than average speed isn't complemented by a lot of agility, which leaves him with little choice but to motor after his target and hope he can close. Might project to be a Josh Mallard type in the sense that he will be used as a pass rusher and to spell ends and linebackers.
This particular projection turned out to be wrong for many, many reasons. We'll get to the them after the jump.
Biermann was, of course, drafted to be a defensive end for the Falcons. They were sorely in need of a high-motor, pass-rushing type, and at first glance that's exactly what Biermann provided. The team hoped that by expending a fifth-round pick, they could get a valuable reserve and perhaps more.
The coaching staff wasted little time getting him ready to work. In his rookie season in 2008, Biermann played special teams and limited defensive snaps in every game. With 21 tackles and two sacks, he was a useful enough player, but Jamaal Anderson and Chauncey Davis (six sacks between them) got the bulk of snaps opposite the unstoppable John Abraham.
Biermann continued to gain strength, though, and the Falcons were looking for someone to spell Abe and take snaps away from the perenially disappointing Anderson, who did very little in his first two season in the NFL. 2009 turned out to be arguably the best year of Biermann's young career, as he piled up 49 tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble despite only starting two games. At that point, he surpassed my modest Mallard-esque expectations and looked like a potential starter, or at least a super sub.
The Falcons completely lost faith in Anderson in 2010 and installed Biermann as more or less the full-time starter opposite Abraham. He responded by putting up 36 tackles, two pass deflections, three sacks and one hell of an impressive interception returned for a touchdown. With his combination of relentless pursuit and strength, Biermann accomplished quite a bit, but he was not the pass-rushing upgrade the Falcons so dearly hoped he would be.
When all's said and done, 2010 will probably be Biermann's last full-time starting gig, at least with the Falcons.
With the team's signing of Ray Edwards in 2011, Biermann went back to the bench. The extremely durable reserve still saw 16 games worth of action, serving as a core special teamer while piling up 37 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a pass deflection and another interception returned for a touchdown. The team is keeping him around precisely because he's so useful and versatile.
So considering all that, was Biermann worth the pick? Emphatically yes. Your average fifth-round pick is just as likely to wash out of the NFL in four years than playing in 64 games, accumulate 4.5 sacks, start for a season and play a key special teams and reserve role for a perennial playoff contender. Biermann doesn't have the size, power or speed to be a truly elite defensive end, but he's incredibly useful for the Falcons, a team that prizes versatility. For fledgling GM Thomas Dimitroff, this was a terrific pick, and Biermann should remain a useful defensive end for Atlanta for years to come.