When the Las Vegas Raiders selected tackle Thayer Munford Jr. of Ohio State and running back Brittain Brown of UCLA in the seventh and final round of the 2022 NFL Draft, there were some comments online that they didn’t have much of a chance to make the team because they were picked so low.
Not so fast.
The Raiders selected linebacker Greg Biekert of Colorado in the seventh round (No. 181 overall) of the 1993 draft and all he did in nine seasons with the Silver and Black was become the second-leading tackler in franchise history
“(Biekert) doesn’t get the recognition he should,” Raiders cornerback Eric Allen said in 2000. “He’s a lot like Winfred Tubbs when he had his breakout season in New Orleans in 1996 or ’97. Biekert has had that year the last two years, and he’s been overshadowed because we have great linebackers in this conference, Junior (Seau), Ray Lewis, whatever.
“The fans and media might not consider him a superstar, but if you need a linebacker to make a tackle, he’ll make it.”
The 6-2, 250-pound Biekert didn’t think he was going to stick with the Raiders as a rookie, but he made the team as a backup linebacker in addition to playing on special teams.’
Early is his second season, Biekert earned a starting spot and kept it for seven seasons.
“I honestly thought I was going to get released,” Biekert recalled of that first training camp with a laugh. “I hardly played at all in the preseason, only on special teams. But it was timing as much as anything. They only had one other inside linebacker, so they kept me.”
When Biekert moved into the starting lineup the following season, he became a tackling machine.
From his middle linebacker spot, Biekert made 100 tackles, including 75 solos, while forcing two fumbles intercepting a pass that he returned 11 yards, and made 1½ sacks in his season year as a starter, but there was much more to come.
Biekert led the Raiders in tackles for six seasons during his career, including four straight years from 1998–2001, and had more than 100 stops in six different seasons, plus 99 in 1997 and 98 in 1996.
Tackles for losses were not an official NFL statistic until 1999, but Biekert had 24 of them in his last three seasons with the Raiders. His best year probably was 2000, when he made 134 tackles, including nine for losses, had two sacks, four passes defended, and two fumble recoveries.
During his nine seasons with the Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders, Biekert made 918 tackles, including far more than those 24 for losses, had 16 sacks, three interceptions that he returned for 68 yards, 14 passes defended, nine forced fumbles, and five recovered fumbles.
Incredibly, Biekert never was named All-Pro or to the Pro Bowl, perhaps because the Raiders were not big winners during his career. He is considered one of the most underrated players in franchise history.
“I never expected to play this long,” Biekert said late in his career. “I thought, ‘Just give me a chance to play in the first place.’ I got that. And then I figured if I played four years that would probably be about it.
“I’m so into what teams do. I like to look at offenses, figure out what they’re doing, see how they are trying to beat defenses. And then I think about ways that we can defend that, little things we can do as linebackers or as a defense to put ourselves in a better position.”
Thinking like that, and playing the way he did, Biekert became the leader of the Raiders' defense, physically and mentally.
And later, he was one off it.
“If I gave him my job tomorrow we wouldn’t miss a beat,” Raiders Defensive Coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said of Biekert late in his career. “I’ve been around a lot of linebackers—that is the position I’ve coached most of my NFL career—and he’s as good as they get as far as preparing himself.”
Said fellow Raiders linebacker Eric Barton: “He knows what everybody is supposed to be doing, from the D- Line to the safeties. I know it’s a cliche, but he is like a coach on the field. If you have a question, he gives you an answer right there. And he can give you an alert. He’ll say, ‘Watch this, watch that.’ It’s unbelievable how much he’s involved, and that just elevates you.
Biekert played his last two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings in 2003, when he made 101 tackles, and 2004, when he had 77 more stops before retiring, giving him a total of 1,096 tackles in his 11 NFL seasons, and later he was an assistant coach for the Raiders in 2010-11.
So, Raider Nation, let’s give Munford, Brown, and the other Raiders drafted in the lower rounds a chance before we judge them.
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