Each Friday leading up to next month’s NFL Draft, WEEI.com will focus on one player the Patriots could be targeting with the 22nd pick. Last week we took a look at Clemson DE/OLB Ricky Sapp. Up next is Michigan DE/OLB Brandon Graham, who is currently projected to the Patriots at pick No. 22 by both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Like Sapp, Graham is a college defensive end who would play outside linebacker in the Patriots’ 3-4.
Combine height: 6-foot-1 3/8
Combine weight: 268 pounds
40-yard dash time: 4.72
Bench reps: 31
Best season: 2009 (64 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks).
Brandon Graham doesn't have the size the Patriots want, but does he have everything else? (AP)
Many see Graham as the next Elvis Dumerville. After being named Senior Bowl MVP (five tackles, TFL, two sacks, FF) in a game in which he embarrassed Ciron Black and Selvish Capers, he won’t be around in the fourth round like the NFL sack leader to whom he is often compared. Statistically he seems like everything the Patriots’ pass rush is missing, but the biggest question regarding his path to the Patriots is how he measures up.
The Belichick Line (6-foot-5 outside linebackers or bust) came into question when we looked at Sapp, and the fact that Graham is four inches short of what they want could be a serious deal-breaker. Despite his being undersized, Graham is viewed by many as one of the highest-energy defensive players in this draft and has spoken highly of the Patriots in the past.
On former Wolverine and current Patriots linebacker Pierre Woods:
“He told me a lot about the Patriots and what they expect of you. He just said it was a great experience. He said it was just like Michigan — you love to hate them. They have a swagger about them and they take pride in what they do, and everybody in the building works hard. So get ready if you become a Patriot.”
On being undersized:
“I watch [Elvis] Dumervil now because he was the leading sacker last year. I just look at myself as the next one. He’s 6-1, he’s small. A lot of people don’t think he could do it, but I believe whoever gets me is going to love me. No matter what size I am, I’m going to get to the ball. I’m going to cause havoc.”
“[New England] needs to continue to address the position and bolster its pass rush. Graham has been impressive during the pre-draft process and has the burst, tenacity and consistency to make an immediate impact.”
NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock:
“From the Patriots’ perspective, they typically like the longer outside linebackers. Brandon Graham, at the Senior Bowl, was 6-foot-1, 263 [pounds]. That’s really short for an outside linebacker in the Patriots’ scheme, and he had 30 1/2 inch arms, which is extremely short.
“Just from an initial cosmetic overview, he fits what they do from a rush linebacker perspective, but he doesn’t fit the prototype. It doesn’t mean they wouldn’t take him, but he’s not as long as they like.”
Kevin Faulk and Stephen Neal had their chances on the free agent market this offseason, but when it came right down to it, there was no place they’d rather be than Foxboro.