Pros: Good quickness off the ball, athleticism and strength. Graham can get off the ball quickly especially when he knows it is a passing situation and he can pin his ears back and go. He shows a good speed rush and has good edge speed, especially for a LE prospect. Graham probably has the best hand usage of any defensive end in this draft class and that helps him shed blocks very effectively and it helps him avoid getting blocked by offensive lineman when rushing the passer. He also shows the ability to dip his shoulder to get under the offensive lineman’s pads to get around the corner to hurry the QB or get a sack. He also has a good burst to get around a block or to close on the quarterback for a sack. Graham is also very good against the run. He plays with good leverage naturally because he is a smaller player but it maximizes his strength. He works very well down the line and flows to the ball well. He is a good tackler and flashes some pop as a hitter when he has time to gain momentum to lay the hit. He also knows his assignments and rarely loses contain on a play when that is what is asked of him. On top of all that Graham has one of the best motors of any defender in this draft class and just does not stop coming until the whistle is blown. He also has a great work ethic and is determined to get better. He was a team leader on Michigan’s defense to boot.
Cons: He is undersized to play defensive end, especially left end. His height and arm length are not ideal and that could hurt him when going up against right tackles who are bigger than him, have longer arms and are stronger than some players he went up against in college. He could potentially be engulfed by larger offensive lineman at the next level, especially when they run right at him. He doesn’t have ideal quickness off the ball and edge speed, and his jump off the snap is inconsistent at times. He is best when he knows when it is a passing down, but other times he gets off the line slower. He is a good tackler but at times will attempt a tackle when he is out of control and whiff on it or slide off the ballcarrier. And outside of a speed rush and a bull rush he really doesn’t have any well developed pass rush moves. I believe he has flashed a spin move when I have seen him, but it is definitely not well developed. He needs to improve in this area to make sure he is an effective pass rusher in the NFL.
Overall: Brandon Graham is a guy that a lot of people don’t see eye to eye on. One person will love him because of his disruptiveness in college, his pass rushing ability, his polished fundamentals and because of his fantastic motor. But one other person will critique him for being short, having short arms and not having great edge speed or quickness off the ball. The critiques on Graham are legitimate, but football players with work ethics and motors like Graham rarely fail in the NFL, and when you draft them you know damn sure that they are going to get the most out of their God-given abilities. That is why I think Graham will have a long NFL career. Does he have Pro-Bowl potential? Not really. I don’t think he will be a productive enough pass rusher as far as sack totals go to ever get serious Pro-Bowl consideration at left end. I think Graham will be a 5-8 sack per season type player at left end. That might not seem that impressive, but most teams don’t have a player who can rush the passer consistently at left end, so 5-8 sacks a season from that position would help tremendously. On top of that, Graham very routinely flushes QB’s out of the pocket once he gets the edge, and if he doesn’t do that he routinely keeps fighting and finds his way to the QB. His effort, motor and hustle will get him sacks and hurries that other defenders won’t get, and that is why I like him so much as a prospect. He won’t be a great player in the NFL, but he will be a good one and he will be a reliable one. You know what you are getting with Brandon Graham, and that is a good pass rusher, a good run defender and a player with a great motor, work ethic and good leadership capability.
Projection: Top 25: I think the Falcons will take him at #19 overall unless Derrick Morgan or Sean Weatherspoon make it that far. If they don’t select him I don’t think he will slide past New England, Green Bay or Arizona.
PASS RUSH: 4.0
POINT OF ATTACK: 3.0
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