Garrett Graham's Hard Work Should Pay Off as Wisconsin TE Preps for NFL Draft

Sam OlesonCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2010

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: Garrett Graham #89 of the Wisconsin Badgers carries the ball against the Michigan State Spartans on September 26, 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Over the past three years, one of the constants in Wisconsin's offense was tight end Garrett Graham.

Graham, a highly-recruited prospect out of New Jersey, caught 121 balls for 16 touchdowns during his time in Madison. He developed into one of the most reliable targets in the Big Ten, if not the nation.

The past two seasons, Graham earned consecutive second-team All-Big Ten tight end honors. He proved his mettle not only in catching passes but also blocking for Wisconsin's powerful rushing attack as well.

However, all of that means nothing when Graham steps onto the field in Mobile on Saturday for the 2010 Senior Bowl. Projected anywhere from a third to fifth-round pick in this year's NFL Draft, Graham definitely has something to prove when he plays his fellow all-star peers.

At 6'3" and 234 pounds, many analysts are predicting that Graham would fit in well with an NFL team that employs an H-back or a motion tight end.

Although scouts have been impressed with his hands, downfield running ability, blocking, and ability to find gaps between linebackers to move the chains, it's his work ethic that has impressed many.

Phrases like "gives very good effort," "strong work ethic" and "plays hard on every down" were some of the ways that scouts described him. As any Wisconsin fan knows, those words fit Graham to a "T."

For two years, Graham labored behind star tight end Travis Beckum. Graham made plays when he got the chance and never complained when he never got any of the glory.

At only 234 pounds and only running a 4.7 40-yard dash, Graham certainly doesn't have the speed to make up for his size. Thus many scouts believe that putting him in the top 50 for the draft would be a stretch. However, they've cited his all-around play and work ethic as qualities that could lead to a third-round selection.

The Senior Bowl is just another chance for Graham to show those attributes. I'm sure quarterbacks Tony Pike, Dan LeFevour and Sean Canfield were excited when they saw Graham's name on the roster. He'll do nothing but increase their stock. Whether it was paving the way for John Clay or easing first-year starter Scott Tolzien into Wisconsin's offense, Graham has made those around him better his entire career.

Barring an injury, such as former teammate and team co-MVP O'Brien Schofield's, Graham is sitting pretty for the NFL. Not overly athletic or flashy, Graham simply produces. Name one NFL team that doesn't want that.