Virginia Tech Senior
Has a good motor and can make plays in pursuit with good range. Has athletic build. Has a decent first step and good straight-line burst upfield to shoot gaps and press the pocket.
Has poor hand use and technique. Is undersized when you ask him to hold up at the poitn of attack. Struggles to get leverage and too easily redirected by guard. Gets engulfed at times at the point of attack. Struggles to get off blocks and lacks the bulk to anchor and be a stack and shed guy. Needs to keep his feet better. Overly relies on speed to beat the guard and has very limited pass rush moves.
Graves can make some plays in the backfield, but he was miscast as a tackle in Virginia Tech's 4-3 scheme, and he projects much better as an end where he won't be as undersized inside. Whenever teams ran right at him, they had little trouble. His hand use is very raw, so he's not the type of player that teams should expect to come in right away and contribute. But he does have very good upside because of his athleticism. Was limited due to injuries as a junior, but in three years as a starter he combined for 2.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Graves is an athletic specimen, and if you can polish up his technique and add some pass rush moves to his repertoire, you might have a capable starter eventually. But more than likely, he's a rotation guy. If he bulks up some more, he might have a chance as a situational pass rusher in a one-gap scheme, but his technique is too raw at this point to really like his chances inside. Instead, you're better off moving him to defensive end and hoping he is a better matchup for tackles. He's a guy that can play end in a 4-3 scheme, but mainly as a run defender and kick inside on passing downs and try to pressure the quarterback. But he probably projects best as an end in a 3-4 scheme. He's going to be raw, and I fully expect it to take the better part of three years before he can be a significant part of a rotation. The best situation for him is going to a 3-4 team where they have entrenched, but possibly aging starters that he can sit behind and watch for a couple of years before he's really asked to make a big contribution. If he's asked to play too early, I'm not sure he'll be up to the task. Basically if he goes to a bad team that needs him to produce right away, he could be out of the league within four years. If he goes to a good team that will be more patient with his develop, he could wind up playing the better part of a decade in the pros.
Graves has a good athletic skill set, but in Atlanta he's probably too long a developmental prospect to really make an impact. He could offer comparable value and fill a similar niche as Jamaal Anderson as a combo end/tackle, but at this point the only thing he really has on Anderson is youth and athleticism. And like Anderson, it will likely take him until his third or fourth year before he develops enough to be a trusted part of the rotation. Because like Anderson, Graves comes into the league with very raw technique and hands and likely won't have first round status to save him. So he would be hard-pressed to make the Falcons roster unless they asked him to slim down a bit in hopes he becomes a bit quicker off the edge as an end. He's athletic and talented enough that he could make the roster as the eighth or ninth guy in the rotation, but he's not going to play much for the majority of his first two or three years, and the Falcons should eventually stumble upon a lesser player that offers more immediate value.
He's a long-term developmental guy that teams will get best value waiting until the fifth or sixth rounds to take him, but his upside and potential pushes him possibly into the fourth round.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Pass Rush: 2.0
Point Of Attack: 2.5
Scouting reports of the defensive ends in the 2011 Draft.
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