I'll cover Friday and possible targets in a mid-afternoon post. No reason to do a ton of writing only to have us make a trade. For now let's take a look back at DE Brandon Graham and talk about that move.
Was he worth pick 13?
I wrote something in the draft preview that listed Graham as a possible "special player". I made note that the only key question was about his size. If a team could be comfortable with a guy that is 6013, 268 then that team might see Brandon as a special prospect. If he was 6'3, 275 Graham would have been taken 5th, 6th, or 7th overall. He's a tad short and that pushed him down to the 'teens.
Andy Reid pointed out in his press conference that there was a run on DEs just after Graham was taken. The Eagles coveted Brandon and didn't want to risk losing him. If you feel strongly about a prospect then you are wise to go get him. Fans may not like the pick or the player, but the logic behind the move is sound. The Eagles didn't overpay. They didn't panic. They found a trading partner that would let us keep both of our 2nd round picks.
Why DE? Didn't we get Tapp for this?
In my mock draft for PE.com I had us taking Jerry Hughes at #24. People killed me for that pick. You have to understand our roster and the draft class. This is a deep, talented group of prospects. However, there are not a lot of great pass rushers available. The 2 guys I genuinely believed in were Graham and Hughes. Kindle had production and character questions. JPP had character issues. I'm shocked the Giants took him.
What about Derrick Morgan? There must have been some questions with him that the public didn't know about. Derrick slid 5-10 picks beyond where he was expected to go. For a guy with solid production and ideal size that is pretty strange. I don't want to speculate, but it seems like something was up.
I think Hughes and Graham were the best pure pass rushers. To go land one of those guys is a good thing. Pass rushers are gold in the NFL. Right Jim Johnson? Right Buddy Ryan? Right Bud Carson?
Darryl Tapp was brought here to help us at DE. He was penciled in at the LDE spot. Graham now joins the mix. Brandon played both sides in college so he can backup Tapp and Cole. Graham also saw time at DT in the Nickel/Dime units. He can help fill the void left by the release of Darren Howard.
We now have 3 starting caliber DEs, plus Juqua Parker and Victor Abiamiri. Parker is older and never has been a stud pass rusher. He's more of an effort guy. Abiamiri is coming off surgery and should be ready by this summer. Still, he's had trouble staying healthy. You can't count on him. His best production has come from DT anyway.
We can now rotate starting DEs in Cole/Tapp with backups in Parker/Graham. That's a good thing. We also have some insurance in case anything happens to one of the starters. Good depth at DE is critical. The Colts got to the Super Bowl, but Freeney's gimpy ankle killed Indy's pass rush. Brees shredded the defense.
I know people are upset that we passed on DBs. This draft has a lot of good CBs and Safeties. There were only a couple of pass rushers to choose from. You had to aggressively go after the pass rushers. There wasn't much in the way of a good backup plan at DE. There are still plenty of options at DB.
Some people have compared Graham to former Wolverine LaMarr Woodley. They are similar. Graham is a more natural athlete. He is faster, quicker, and stronger. He was also more productive. In their final 2 seaons:
Graham ---- 71 solo tackles, 46.0 TFLs, 20.5 sacks, 4 FFs
Woodley --- 57 solo tackles, 30.5 TFLs, 18 sacks, 7 FFs
One final thing to consider is this. Think about the best defensive players that we've drafted in the Reid era (Cole, Bunk, Patt, Stew, Sheldon, Derrick Burgess, Mike Lewis). Those guys were productive Senior players that all went to the Senior Bowl and performed well. We've gone after talented underclassmen with real erratic results (Corey, Lito, Matt McCoy, CJ Gaddis, Matt Ware). We have had some Senior Bowl guys that didn't pan out, but injuries are usually involved (McDougle, Abiamiri).
Graham isn't a project. He comes to Philly having played at a big school in a football conference. He played mainly LDE, what he would play for us. There are no crazy switches or transitions for him to make. Graham is a gifted athlete, but is also a smart, highly productive pass rusher. He dominated as a Senior, leading the nation in TFLs. He then went to the Senior Bowl and dominated. He had good workouts. Graham has passed every test with flying colors. Great job.
Now comes the hard part. He gets to chase Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo around. He can either make plays or get booed relentlessly. I'm sure Graham wouldn't have it any other way.