Andy Reid couldn’t resist the urge. Brandon Graham looked too familiar, played too much like a current favorite player of his, Trent Cole, and a former player, Hugh Douglas. So when Graham was still available at 13, Reid had to grab him.
The move just left some scratching their heads if moving up to take the somewhat undersized 6-1 3/8, 270-pound Michigan defensive end was worth it, costing the Eagles two third-round picks and the 24th overall pick to trade up with Denver.
The Eagles took Graham with Texas strong safety Earl Thomas and Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan, two strong considerations the Eagles were supposedly looking at, still on the board at 13.
“I thought it was important that we better ourselves with the pass rush and I thought it was good to be aggressive and move up for who we thought was the best defensive end,” Reid said. “The thing we liked about Brandon is that he’s a relentless defensive player. We went into this off-season looking to get better on the defensive line. The thing about defensive line is you get good play on the defensive line, it makes everyone else look better. We felt Brandon was the best player there [at 13]. He’ll remind you a little of Hugh Douglas, not that I want t0 pump up Hugh, but he’s a relentless player.
“I put a lot of value on guys who love to play the game, character guys who play relentless football. I also like players who make plays on the defensive line of scrimmage.”
Eagles’ General Manager Howie Roseman was also a big fan of Graham’s. “He thought the world of this kid,” Reid said, explaining Roseman’s opinion.
It just came as a little shock to Graham that he was picked by the Eagles. Graham, who had 10.5 sacks and led the nation in tackles for losses with 26 (second-best in Michigan history) for minus-127 yards, said he spoke to the Eagles at the NFL Combine for about 15 minutes, but “I never thought in a million years the Eagles would pick me. I didn’t take a visit there.”
“I’m going to come in and get as much done as I can and go out and show it,” said Graham, who was clocked at 4.7-second in the 40 but some have been critical about his height. “After the Senior Bowl, I didn’t hear that too much [about the height]. I’m a strong guy who will get to the ball. I consider myself a great pass rusher, who’s a disruptive run stopper–and I’m humble. I consider myself a coachable kid.”
Apparently, so does Reid.
“I haven’t been around a whole lot of players who play as hard as Trent Cole and Hugh, that same way,” Reid said. “Both Hugh and Trent have phenomenal motors, and that’s who this kid reminds me of.”
The first few picks went as expected. Sam Bradford was selected with the first pick by the woeful St. Louis Rams. Ndamukong Suh was taken next by the Detroit Lions followed by offensive tackle Gerald McCoy by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No surprises. All the talk, all the speculation, all the tweets and texts that went back and forth were all for nothing. But it certainly piqued the interest for the fans of those teams.
What appeared to be good news for the Eagles was that Thomas, who was eventually snatched up by Seattle with the next pick at 14, kept falling down the draft board. Morgan, selected two picks later (16th) by Tennessee, was sliding down too, especially after Jacksonville took California d-end Tyson Alualu with the 10th pick overall. It was the first surprise of the first round. The second, arguably, came next when San Francisco traded up with Denver for the 11th pick and took Rutgers’ offensive tackle Anthony Davis, projected to be a first-round pick, but not as high as 11.
Graham was projected to be a mid-first round pick. But Graham, who just turned 22 on April 3, is different than Douglas in one respect–“I don’t like to talk too much. For Philadelphia to see that in me, I’m glad it made them make the move to get me, I appreciate that. I haven’t sat on the bench in so many years and I’m not trying to start now. I’m trying to learn as much as I can, and I’m trying to show it. I know coach wants me out there as much as possible and I’m going to try to do that. I want to be a starter. I’ not used to coming off the bench, so I’m going to do whatever this team wants me to do, play special teams, anything, if I got to get out there, I got to get out there. I’m just not used to getting cold on the bench or sitting the bench. I like to be out there helping my team win.”