With the NFL Draft right around the corner, we're getting back to taking a look at the Michigan players who will be up on the big board come April. And speaking of the Big Board, you've gotta look at SBN's Mocking the Draft for all the latest updates on Michigan athletes in the 2010 NFL Draft. In reality, there are only three Michigan players that will be drafted. Brandon Graham is a no questions asked first round pick (let's be honest, he's the best DE in this draft). The remaining two are Michigan Football's Cornerback Donovan Warren and Punter Zoltan Mesko. We've already covered Donovan Warren, so lets get to the big dog in the draft, the unstoppable Brandon Graham.
Pain was inflicted
Wieght: 270 pounds
Forty Time: Graham's 40 times are up in the air. His NFL combine run was clocked just north of 4.70, but he pulled a hammy during the run. On the other hand Graham's also been clocked at 4.52 when not getting probed by the NFL doctors at the combine.
General Dimensions: A mass of muscle and anger. Graham's 6'1"-6'2" height is somewhat deceiving, as he possesses the limbs of a taller man. I beleive it was Todd McShay or one of the other ESPN analysts who remarked that Graham's pad level is the exact same as Jerry Hughes from TCU, it's just that Graham has no neck whatsoever. If Graham had a neck, there'd be nothing to knock down his draft status. But he doesn't have a neck, so people who haven't seen him question his size.
Likes: Christmas, Jimmy Johns, "The Sound of Music", Method Man (before he sold out), Quarterbacks (they taste like chicken), deadlifts, luge, universal healthcare, The Economist. (No, not really).
Dislikes: Tangerines, the state of Ohio, Nancy Pelosi, Method Man (after he sold out), pirate movies, people who start sentences with the word "like", skeleton (luge only, homes), Romania. (again, no, not really)
The Stats: Take a look at the last two years' numbers. They speak for themselves. Graham did all this despite playing on the two worst Michigan Wolverine defenses of all time. To put that in context, Michigan's been playing football since1879. Now, on to the numbers:
Prior to 2008, Graham was still growing into his body and learning the craft, so he didn't see the field at the same level. Originally a linebacker in high school, Michigan recruited Graham as a Five Star project at DE. Once he was on campus, Michigan slowly groomed him as defensive end, keeping him off the field other than special teams and spot duty for his first two years. As a result, Graham saw the field full time as a junior and blossomed into a star.
Awards: All Big 10 Honors (2008, 2009), AP All-American Honors (2008, 2009), 2010 Senior Bowl MVP, Hendricks Award finalist (2009), Big 10 co-MVP Silver Football Award winner (2009).
The Twitter Summary: For you twitter addicts who require things in 140 characters or less, here you go:
Brandon Graham: The best DE in the NFL Draft. Powerful, strong, fast. All the moves. TFL and sack machine.
(More on Brandon Graham's NFL Prospects after the Jump)
Things the Pro Scouts Don't Account For: This all comes back to height. I don't get this. Somehow because he's an inch shorter than one or two dudes all of a sudden he can't play football. I remember a conversation two years ago about Jake Long where people said his arms weren't long enough. I mean WTF? All this height nonsense has led to people asking if he can keep his hands high enough to ward off blockers. Really? One of Graham's strengths is controlling the engagement with his own hands, forcing down the tackle's and disposing of him. As you can see, this height thing takes on a life of its own and creates stupid questions that simply watching him play would disspell. One other question I've seen raised is his speed. Again, I don't get this at all. Brandon Graham tracked down Javohn Ringer from behind. He caught Terrell Pryor from behind. What more do you need to see? He explodes into the backfield, and possesses a tremendous first step. If he can blow into the backfield the way he does andtrack down two on the Big Ten's fastest players, yeah, I'd say he's fast enough to play DE or LB.
Thing to Keep in Mind: What you want to know about a player coming out of college is how he fares against real competition, e.i. the best college players. Some guys you don't have that type of information. But in Graham's case, you do. Graham went up against seven draft rated players during the regular season (including a public depantsing of Brian Bulaga) and then spent the Senior Bowl giving swirlies to any Tackle or Guard unfortunate enough to end up across from him. Want back-up? I've got it.
This is where all the Mountain West people will get mad at me. I'll say it anyway. Jerry Hughes didn't face anyone this year on par with what Jeremy Beal went up against every week in conference play. How do I know? I took a look at where the personnel fit on the draft boards. Specifically, CBSSportsline.com's draft ratings board. Every school with a draftable player is listed. For the sake of slimming the data, I only counted "good" players on the offensive line as players rated to be selected in the 7 rounds of the draft or designated as "FA" or a likely free agent signee. You can be a senior OL and still suck. Likewise I didn't count Tight Ends as part of the equation because they're not in the game the entire time and don't have to block with the regularity that a offensive tackle or guard has too. Because Defensive ends stunt and do all kinds of crazy stuff, I counted all "good" linemen (tackles, guards and centers). If people wish, they can take the centers of the equation all together. But that's a personal preference.
Draft Rated Opponents Projected Round(s) Jerry Hughes (TCU) 3 4th, 7/FA, 7/FA Derrick Morgan (GT) 7 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 5th, 7/FA, 7/FA, 7/FA Brandon Graham (Mich) 7 1st, 2nd, 2/3, 3rd, 4/5, 5th, 7th Von Miller (Texas A&M) 10 1st, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 4/5, 5th, 5/6, 6/7, 7th, 7th Brandon Sharpe (TTU) 4 1st, 1st, 7th 7/FA Jeremy Beal (Oklahoma) 9 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4/5, 5th, 5/6, 6/7, 7th, 7FA
If you're looking for the guy that faced the stiffest competition, look no further than Von Miller. 10th draft rated players as competition, and still 9 sacks against conference opponents and Arkansas. A tip O' the cap to Mr. Miller. Looking at the numbers, in terms of overall competition, I'd place Miller 1st, Beal 2nd, Graham 3rd, Morgan 4th, and Sharpe 5th, and Hughes last.
The numbers are pretty staggering. They're even more impressive when you line them up against the two guys slated ahead of him. Another point to make, I wrote the above piece before the Senior Bowl, so Graham's performance and and competition there aren't factored in. But if you consider the Senior Bowl, it is a microcosm of something Michigan fans have known ever since Graham donned a winged helmet. The better Graham's competition, the better he plays:
Graham's game picked up as the season went on despite Michigan's struggles. Against ranked teams Graham was insane. Against #7 Iowa and Bulaga, Graham racked up 3.5 TFL and 2 sacks. Against #9 Penn State Graham had 3.5 TFL and .5 sacks. Against #16 Wisconsin Graham had 4.0 TFL and 2 sacks, out of 11 total tackles! Against #5 Ohio State he had 5 TFL and 2 sacks. As the competition got better, so did Graham.
Where does he slot in the NFL Draft? Is he Overrated or Underrated?
According to all the hoopla surrounding Graham's Senior Bowl Domination you'd figure the guy would be a top 15 pick. But for some reason, despite supperior numbers against superior competition, he's been rated behind Derrick Morgan and Jerry Hughes. I don't get that at all. No one had better numbers than Graham. Neither Morgan nor Hughes dealt with the constant double teams that Graham saw. Neither of them rose to the competition the way Graham did. He's going to be a first round pick, so that's the correct call by the NFL. But drafting him lower than Morgan or Hughes, at least in my estimation, means that he is underrated as a player.
So How Did the Combine Help/Hurt Him:
It didn't really do anything to his stock. A great 40 time might have given him the benefit of skipping his Pro Day work out, but really... it didn't do anything. The Combine could only have affected him if Hughes or Morgan had shown up with Turberculous. Graham punched his first round ticket at the Senior Bowl when he ate everyone for lunch en route to a 2 sack, fumble producing performance and MVP award.
YouTube Summary: Our buddies at Pro Draft Party dot Com put together a nice little montage . I think it shows Graham's abilities in all their glory.