The Philadelphia Eagles traded up to the 13th overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft, selecting Brandon Graham out of the University of Michigan. Since then, Graham has recorded just three sacks in two seasons, missing extensive time in both seasons with an ACL tear.
Graham told reporters recently that he believes he is a bust. So is he?
The numbers in this case don’t lie. Graham recorded three sacks, 12 tackles and two forced fumbles in his first NFL season, starting six of a possible 13 games. It wasn’t a superb first season, especially since Graham tore his ACL late in the year, but it wasn’t the worst either.
In 2011, Graham showed little progress, beginning the season on the PUP list, and then appearing in just three games on the field. The Eagles had inked Jason Babin to a five-year deal prior to the season and Babin exploded in defensive-line coach Jim Washburn’s wide-nine scheme, racking up a career-high 18 sacks and three forced fumbles.
With Trent Cole playing on the other side, there wasn’t much opportunity for Graham to start, but the Eagles rotated their defensive line enough so that there was plenty of room for Graham to work his way into the rotation.
He didn’t play much though, seeing just 56 snaps. Phillip Hunt, Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker performed admirably as backups, but with Parker now in Cleveland and Tapp likely to be cut due to his $2.45 million base salary in 2012, Graham has every opportunity in the world to produce in ’12.
The Eagles drafted Fletcher Cox, a versatile defensive tackle who can also play end, in the first round, and then selected defensive end Vinny Curry of Marshall University in the second round. That should give Graham all the motivation in the world to push for playing time next season.
Graham has also taken offense to the comments of Philly fans criticizing management for selecting him over New York Giants standout defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP racked up 16.5 sacks, 72 tackles, two forced fumbles and a safety in an All-Pro season of 2011, helping the Giants win a Super Bowl.
That’s substantially more than Graham who was selected just two slots ahead of JPP. It’s nearly impossible at this point for the Eagles to not look at Graham as a bust. He’s averaging 1.5 sacks per season and he’s missed 16 games in two years due to injury.
That doesn’t mean Graham can never turn it around at any point in his career. Remember Chris Long, the St. Louis Rams’ second overall draft pick in 2008? He struggled through two sub-par seasons before breaking out in 2010 and 2011. Graham plays in a highly talented defensive line that could bring out the best in him, but my suggestion for Graham is to shut his mouth and go out there and play.
Otherwise he will go down in Eagles infamy with players like Mike Mamula and Jerome McDougle.