We continue our “Falcons 50” countdown with a look at the Atlanta Falcons’ top 10 first-round draft picks. Falcons football is just 37 days away. You can follow along with the full countdown here.
During the late 90s to mid 2000s, the Atlanta Falcons were pretty much identifiable by the arguably the biggest star in team history in former quarterback Michael Vick. Most of the success by the team was the result of the rare quarterback. Some of that success can also be tied to the play of the next player on the list of the top 10 first rounders in Falcons history.
A gritty defensive end who didn’t possess exceptional talent as other pass rushers during that era but at the end of the day, the job was done. Here is the No. 7 selection on the top 10 Atlanta Falcons first rounders:
7. DE Patrick Kerney – 1st Round, 30th Overall, 1999 NFL Draft
Coming out of the University of Virginia, Kerney was selected to add some youth to a defensive line unit that was seeing some aging players. Kerney’s first two seasons in the league wasn’t as beneficial as some expected it to be as he only totaled five combined sacks.
That was until the 2001 season.
His third season in the league saw 48 tackles and 12 sacks worth of production. His sacks were tied for ninth in the league. Kerney followed that season with 58 tackles and 10 sacks in 2002.
His back-to-back productive seasons should have propelled into an even better season but instead, his momentum hit a snag in 2003 with only 6.5 sacks in 16 games. Kerney finally earned himself a spot in the Pro Bowl in 2004 with 13 sacks, 65 total tackles, and nine passes defensed and finished fourth in the league in sacks and second team All-Pro as well.
Unfortunately, that was the last great season for Kerney in a Falcons uniform. Injuries caught up to Kerney during the next two seasons in which he only totaled 11 sacks, not to mention the team acquiring the talented pass rusher in John Abraham. Before you knew it, Kerney opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2006 season and eventually signed with the Seattle Seahawks.
In eight seasons, 58 total sacks placed Kerney third on the list of all-time sack leaders in Falcons history and his 271 tackles were the most by a defensive end in team history as well. While many would spew out Deion Sanders or Jesse Tuggle as one of the better defenders in team history, Kerney’s name deserves to be put in the conversation. With his rock-solid production during his eight seasons, Kerney is clearly one of the best first rounders in Falcons history.