The Falcoholic will periodically be looking at potential first round picks for the Atlanta Falcons in the 2010 NFL Draft. Today, Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham.
I don't think there's too many Falcons fans who wouldn't be satisfied with Brandon Graham as our first round pick.
You have to try very hard to find someone who is willing to say bad things about Graham. He's a capable pass rusher, a willing run-stopper and an intelligent, hard-working defensive end in general. Everyone likes him, and yet he's not ranked as the top defensive end in the draft by almost anyone.
Why? I'll tell you why.
Graham is not a stunning athlete. He's not Jamaal Anderson or Jason Pierre-Paul. He doesn't have tantalizing speed, etc. etc. Or so draft experts, their hearts fluttering with thoughts of athleticism, would tell you. Even Scott Wright of Draft Countdown, one of the experts I trust most, has him pegged as not a great athlete. Okay then.
But then you look at his Combine stats. He ran a 4.69 40 yard-dash, just behind Pierre-Paul's 4.64. He posted 31 reps, showing his strength. Thomas Dimitroff has proved time and time again that he will look at a guy who scouts have deemed a "midget" or "stubby armed" or "fatty fat mcfatterson" and see whether the guy can actually play the game of football, which Graham clearly can. He was extremely productive in his four year career at Michigan, where he piled up more than 120 tackles and almost 30 sacks. He's a safe pick, but he's also a smart pick.
So now that we've dispelled that, what are his actual weaknesses? Well, for one, some scouts seem to think he'll have to change to outside linebacker in the NFL. So he can take over for Mike Peterson in a year? Score! But if that doesn't alarm you, there's concerns (Wright is one of those who mentions this) that he can't generate that sudden burst of speed and power that allows a defensive end or linebacker to get from Point A to Point Eating A Quarterback's Face. That would be a legitimate concern, because we are pretty obviously drafting a guy like Graham to be a factor as a pass rusher.
In the end, though, he's the most obvious pick for the Falcons if they're inclined to look at defensive end. He'll probably be there at 19, he's been an extremely productive football player all his life, and his athleticism and strength seem to be criminally underrated. He could step in immediately and provide a boost as a starting defensive end, and he might never look back once he gets that position. The worst case scenario for Graham is that he doesn't fit particularly well at end and has to move to outside linebacker, but no matter where he plays I believe he'll be at minimum a solid pro. That sounds like the kind of guy Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith would like to have around.