22 Days to the Draft: Miami TE, Jimmy Graham

With the Draft fast approaching, it's time to start looking at some potential players for the Patriots. I'm going to put profiles of 2 players a day- one offense, one defensive- and gain a better understanding of the players in the draft.

We need Tight Ends, plain and simple. We need Tight Ends who can block, can catch and can get downfield. We need Tight Ends who can help on special teams, who can be versatile and step in the HB position and who can be a role player on our offense. Miami TE Jimmy Graham can't do any of the above. Yet. Graham is the biggest project in this draft and has the potential to be the next Antonio Gates- or the next draft bust. Graham played 4 years of college basketball and decided to give football a try this past college season. He didn't put up mind blowing numbers, but after just one season the potential was clearly visible. He's too raw to be called a great blocker and he's too inexperienced to be called a great receiver. However, all of his measurables are there- he's tall, he's big, he can put on muscle, he's fast and he's smart. Do you think he can become starter material if he learns the game behind TE Alge Crumpler- one of the best TE teachers in the game?

His measurements and some quotes after the jump.

WalterFootball.com Scouting

Height: 6-6. Weight: 262.
Projected 40 Time: 4.68.
Combine 40 Time: 4.56.
Benchx225: 15. Vertical: 38. Arm: 35.

CBSSports.com Scouting

03/27/2010 - Jimmy Graham sees the irony. As a basketball player at UM, Graham was seen as too physical. During his four-year career, Graham's personal fouls (286) easily exceeded his field goals made (202). But as a football player, Graham is hearing that he's not tough enough. NFL draft analysts like Todd McShay have virtually called the 6-foot-8, 260-pound tight end a softie. "That's just something I have to deal with," Graham said on Friday after completing his audition at UM's Pro Day at Greentree Practice Fields. "I remember coming in here last August and people saying, ???Let's see what this basketball player can do.' I know I'm going to be tagged as a basketball player for another couple of months. But I think after camp and after a couple of games I'll be able to show people I'm a football player." Graham certainly looked like a football player during his one season in helmet and shoulder pads. Despite not having played the game since he was a freshman in high school, Graham caught 17 passes for 213 yards and finished second on the Hurricanes with 5 touchdown catches. But in the world of the NFL draft, every prospect has to have a blemish. The knock on Graham regards whether he will be physically willing enough to block in the NFL. Asked where he picked up that rap, Graham said: "I'm not really sure. I know when teams look at what I've been through in my life, what I've been through in college and high school, that I've had to be tough and I've had to be on my own and [kept] pushing forward, when they see and know those things, they won't have any question about it." - Jorge Milian, Palm Beach Post

03/23/2010 - The draft is a spectacular process, in part because of what happens to some of the people in it. A year ago, for example, Jimmy Graham was a basketball player at the University of Miami who had used up his eligibility on the hardwood but still had a scholarship season to do something with since he had played for the Hurricanes' hoops team as a true freshman. So, Graham, at 6-feet-6-1/4, 260 pounds, played one year at tight end for Miami's football team. He finished with 17 catches and five receiving touchdowns this past season. Those numbers, with some guys, wouldn't really draw even a second look. But for teams who like their tight ends big - as the Broncos do - Graham is getting a lot of study because of all he brings. This is a player with enough athleticism to be one of just five players in Hurricanes history to finish his hoops career with at least 100 blocked shots. Against North Carolina during the 2008-09 season, he had 15 rebounds and five blocked shots. That's not a guy who's shy in traffic, and he has the kind of hand-eye coordination and ball skills that could translate to an effective player in the scoring zone for a football team willing to help him learn on the job. He's smart - he's already earned a degree in a double major (marketing and management) - and had a 38-1/2-inch vertical jump at the scouting combine and ran a 4.57 (hand-timed) 40-yard dash. That's matchup potential, because there isn't a safety or linebacker in the league who would be all that excited about running down the hash against a 6-6 player who runs well. And, more important, Graham wants to play football. He turned down what he described as a "six-figure" contract to play basketball in Europe to give football a chance this past season with the Hurricanes despite the fact the last time he had played the game was as a high school freshman. - Jeff Legwold, The Denver Post

NFL.com Scouting

Graham is a very raw tight end that left the basketball team to turn out for football in time for the 2009 season. He is extremely athletic and has a huge upside but still needs a ton of technique work from running routes to blocking. He is not restricted in his routes and shows a good burst coming out of his breaks to separate from defenders but at the same time struggles to get off the line vs. good press linebackers. He shows strength when going for the ball in a crowd as well as flashes of strength as a blocker but can be sloppy in his footwork when he needs to adjust on the move when blocking in space. He has received comparisons to Tony Gonzalez who played football and basketball at Cal but he is not as developed as Gonzalez was at the same stage. He still needs to shed the basketball work ethic he came with.

Strengths

Graham has an outstanding combination of size and speed for the tight end position. A former basketball player, he shows impressive natural athleticism on the gridiron. Despite limited experience, he has capable hands to make a play in traffic. High-character guy. Possesses tremendous potential.
Weaknesses
Graham lacks game experience with only one year of football under his belt. At this time, work ethic as a pure football player needs to improve. His toughness is in question as he still carries the basketball player label. Blocking tenacity and overall technique need polish and refinement.

MockingtheDraft.com Scouting

Final word: Everyone knows Graham is a project, considering he's only played football for less than a year. But the converted basketball player is ultra athletic and has great size. He showed at the Senior Bowl and combine that he's a talent but inconsistent. His fate will be determined by if he's willing to work to overcome his inexperience-based deficiencies.

Verdict: It's a general consensus that Graham is a big project tight end. He's projected to be a 3rd or 4th round pick. He has Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates potential- two of the best TEs in the game, both of whom played basketball in college. However, he's raw and unproven. The Patriots have a need for a TE and are most likely to pick up two or more during this off-season. If Graham is available in the 4th, I hope we take a look at him as long as we pick up another TE who can contribute immediately. Graham is a project who won't be able to help right away so we need a player to step up and help out while Graham learns the game. If we aren't going to pick up another TE, I'd stay away from Graham and pick up a more sure player.

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