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Eagles Use Trio of Picks to Move up, Select DE Brandon Graham in 1st-round of Draft

April 22, 2010

If you were one of the many fans that tuned into the 1st-round of the 2010 NFL Draft on TV or stopped by our live blogging coverage of the rookie selection event, you probably already know that the Eagles have selected DE Brandon Graham. Though a surprising move, especially since the team dealt both of their 3rd-round selections (as well as their 24th overall pick) in order to get him, there is no arguing that a prototype defensive end was needed, and with a solid collegiate career and praise from just about every scout that evaluated him, it’s hard to get upset at the Eagles’ decision to take him. Sure, one could make excellent cases that suggest the team should have gotten a top-notch safety like Earl Thomas or even a higher-ranked end such as Derrick Morgan with the 13th overall pick they acquired, but it’s truly hard to find a defensive end in the ’10 rookie class that appears more ready for the NFL than Graham.

Thankfully, out of all the prospects scouted our Future 40 Draft series that ended a few days ago, Graham was among them and he happened to be the Eagles’ pick. There truly are a lot of reasons to get excited about his presence in Philadelphia…fans simply have to remember that the Birds still have plenty of picks left (after dealing three to move up for Graham) and there are a good deal of talented players that remain on the board and are likely to be available in the later rounds, which will occur throughout the weekend.

A star defender since high school (in which he captained his squad as a highly-regarded linebacker and pass rusher), Graham (pictured) was recruited by the University of Michigan with expectations to step in as a starter immediately. And though his freshman campaign in college included few highlights as he manned a reserve role, the 6-foot-1, 268-pound lineman exploded in his second season in the NCAA. Showing excellent quickness of the line of scrimmage, he notched eight and a half sacks and saw some reps as an OLB. In each of his final two years as a Wolverine, Graham recorded at least 10 sacks; in his senior season, he was credited with 64 total tackles, a respectable total for a d-lineman. Known for having an aggressive edge and high motor in his pass rushing technique, the 22-year-old has frequently been compared to Colts’ star DE Dwight Freeney, and figures to have a lengthy career at the professional level. One of his most talked about strengths is the way he explodes around offensive linemen with an impressive combination of power and speed, while the primary weakness that’s been pointed out is the fact that he often looks stiff when given space and gets caught up with larger tackles that attempt to block him.

While it was not publicly made clear that the Eagles had a lot of interest in him (they were never officially announced the scheduling of a workout with Graham or even a scouting session of him at the Combine or his Pro Day), the front office was clearly thrilled at the chance to take him and didn’t hesitate in sending a trio of Draft picks to the Broncos for the 13th overall slot. When commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the Eagles had taken the defensive end, team owner Jeffrey Lurie was shown in the organization’s “war room” nodding and smiling in approval while general manager Howie Roseman laughed with excitement. Meanwhile, Graham was shown on television with his friends and family, and when he learned of the news that he had been picked by the Eagles, he screamed with joy and began to celebrate.

Besides the fact that he seems to be ready for the NFL, Graham has had no problem with his character. Unlike other high-ranked prospects like WR Dez Bryant and OT Anthony Davis, he has had zero issues with his attitude, work ethic, and overall level of self-esteem. The MVP of the annual Senior Bowl college contest gives the Eagles a starting quality pass rusher for both the short- and long-term future. The only serious question expected to arise with the entrance of Graham is the role Darryl Tapp will play for the Eagles. Tapp, 25 years old, is also a defensive end, and was acquired in a trade with the Seahawks earlier in the offseason. When he was added, it was projected he would start opposite Trent Cole on the line, but it now appears a competition could be in order for a leading role on the defense. If that’s not put into place, it’s a good bet that Brandon Graham–the newest Philadelphia Eagle–will be a starter in 2010.

Here’s something that may delight fans who have been opposed to the move: Longtime NFL analyst Adam Schefter, who was part of the Draft coverage team for the ESPN network this evening, gave this as his immediate reaction to the Eagles selecting Graham: “Brandon Graham is the best pass rusher in this Draft…my prediction: Graham will win the Defensive Rookie of the Year [award].”

(picture source)

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