The Philadelphia Eagles are still banking that defensive end Brandon Graham turns out to be the player they expected when the organization drafted him No. 13th overall in the 2010 NFL draft. When I saw the films on Brandon Graham, he looked like a beast, so I had no complaints with the pick. Coming from the University of Michigan, Graham tore up the Big Ten with his tenacious pass rushing abilities.
Upon Graham’s lofty first round selection, he was immediately slotted as a starter. Early into the 2010 season, because of Graham’s ineffectiveness, he was benched in favor of veteran Juqua Parker. Graham did not create enough consistent quarterback pressure and struggled mightily against stopping the run. Some scouts were critical of Brandon Graham’s physical deficiencies coming out of college which included short arms and lack of size for the position. This worry may have proved to be a hindrance early in Graham’s career.
Later in his rookie season in week 14, Graham suffered an ACL injury against the Dallas Cowboys. The injury was severe enough that Graham had to spend most of the 2011 season rehabbing. Graham managed to play in the last three games of the 2011 season with no impact, recording four tackles and zero sacks.
Before the injury, in Graham’s rookie campaign, the Eagles expected more production out of their first round pick. The Eagles envisioned a speed edge rusher who created havoc in the pocket. Additionally, Graham proved to be more of a liability against the run than the Eagles imagined.
The Eagles defensive line coach, Jim Washburn, is still a big proponent of Brandon Graham. Washburn believes that Graham is a perfect fit for his wide nine scheme. Entering the 2012 season, Graham has been reported to be in the best shape of his career. Hopefully, playing the wide nine technique for a whole season will allow Graham to flourish.
The Eagles have a history of drafting smaller, quicker players on defense. I am not sure if that is sound strategy. As the third defensive end, behind Trent Cole and Jason Babin, Graham must make an impact. Sporting News’ Russ Lande believes that Brandon Graham is at risk of becoming a high pick NFL draft bust. Even Graham commented in May concerning his performance to date. Graham was quoted as saying, “Right now, I’m a bust, so I’m going to deal with that. I’m a bust, and I’m going to keep being a bust. Even when I make plays, I’m going to still act like I’m a bust”.
At this point, my opinion is that the book is still out on Brandom Graham. The 2012 season will be the barometer to determine whether or not the Eagles made a mistake with the Graham selection. I know many feel that safety Earl Thomas would be looking pretty sweet in kelly green right now (Eagles passed on the University of Texas safety for Graham in the 2010 draft). The Eagles were hoping for Dwight Freeney ability, not Mike Mamulas. If the ACL injury hampers his speed, Graham will be yet another Eagles first round bust.