Brandon Graham of Michigan Could Be First Outside Linebacker Selected in 2010 NFL Draft
INDIANAPOLIS – Brandon Graham has a role model, or something close.
And for Graham, a pass-rusher from the University of Michigan, there is a reason he closely watches Elvis Dumervil, a defensive end/linebacker for the Denver Broncos.
Not only is Dumervil very, very good at the same skill at which Graham excels, they're of relatively similar size.
Dumervil is 5-feet-11, 248 pounds.
Graham, widely expected to be one of the first outside linebacker/defensive end/pass rushers selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, is 6-feet-2, 268 pounds.
If a player such as Dumervil can succeed, Graham said, why can't he?
"I think it helps me a lot," Graham said during the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, which was held in late February at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
"I watch Dumervil now. He was the leading sacker last year. I look at myself as the next one. He's 6-1, he's small, a lot of people didn't think he could do it.
"But I believe whoever gets me is going to love me.''
When Graham said he looks at himself as the next one, he's referring to a recent trend in the NFL of relatively undersized pass rushers making a big impact. Two play for the Colts, five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney and two-time Pro Bowl end Robert Mathis, with each player excelling in the team's one-gap, attacking style of defensive line play.
Graham said for him, size always has been an issue.
And in fact, he said, it concerned him enough that he spoke to NFL scouts and personnel officials about it during the combine.
"I just said I'm going to go out there and compete," he said. "I asked them what they wanted to see from me since I'm so small, what did they want to see during the combine.
"They told me to be me and go out there and work hard.''
Whatever his size, Graham excelled at Michigan, doing so at times in difficult circumstances.
The Wolverines, after going 20-6 in Graham's first two seasons under then-head coach Lloyd Carr, struggled in his last two seasons under new head coach Rich Rodriguez, finishing 3-9 and 5-7.
Graham, after playing sparingly as a freshman in 2006, registered 29 sacks over his last three seasons, finishing with 8.5 as a sophomore, 10 in a junior season in which he was named team Most Valuable Player and first-team All-Big 10, and 10.5 during a senior season in which he shared the Chicago Tribune Silver Trophy as Big 10 Most Valuable Player with Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark.
"I just learned that no matter how tough it gets, make sure you have the people around you stick together and not point fingers," Graham said. "That's one thing we didn't do and I was happy about that. It could have been a bad experience on top of another bad experience because of how the season went.
"I knew what it took to get there because we had great leaders like (Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker) LaMarr (Woodley) and (New York Jets linebacker) David Harris (during his freshman season). We had those guys who were really in my ear on defense, so I know how the defense was supposed to be.
"For us not to do it my last two years it hurt, but it happens."
Graham often has been compared to Woodley, who played end at Michigan before the Steelers selected him in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft and moved him to linebacker. It's a comparison Graham said he welcomes.
"That was somebody who taught me a lot and showed me the ropes when I got up there," Graham said. "I thank him because a lot of other guys wouldn't help you as much as he helped me. I give a lot to him. I feel good that they compare me to him because he's doing great in the league.''
Graham, invited to the Senior Bowl in January, had what many analysts and observers said was a dominant week, and one that enhanced his draft status. He is generally projected to be selected anywhere from the middle of the first round to early in the second.
"I just wanted to let them know I'm going to give 100 percent to every play," he said. "No matter what size, I am going to get to the ball and cause havoc."
Graham, the Senior Bowl MVP with five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, ran a 4.72 40-yard dash at the combine, but injured a hamstring during his second 40, and rescheduled his "Pro Day" workout from early March to April 8.
While Graham played mostly end in college, with many teams in the NFL currently playing or moving toward a three-lineman, four-linebacker defensive scheme, many analysts believe he could play linebacker in the 3-4.
"I'm very comfortable because growing up I've been playing linebacker since I was 7, and I got to Michigan and played defensive end," he said. "So I knew, I always wanted to stand up, that was my dream, coming out playing linebacker.
"They moved me to D-line. I had to adjust. I think I'll fit straight-in as soon as I get back."
And Graham said while he knows wherever he plays, he'll have to overcome perceptions about his size, he said he has overcome such talk before.
"I'm trying to be Top 10, that's where I'm trying to go," he said. "It's a bigger challenge for me to go out there and put up better numbers than everybody else. (I have to) make sure I stay on my game and continue to have the motor that I have."
BREAKING DOWN THE 2010 NFL DRAFT'S TOP OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
There have been times in recent seasons when outside linebacker wasn't the high-demand position in the draft it had been in past seasons. But with the 3-4 defense being employed by more and more teams, that's changing a bit. While Brandon Graham of Michigan is projected by many to be the first player selected at the position, Sergio Kindle of Texas and Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri are also generally considered first-round selections with Weatherspoon's stock considered to be rising in recent weeks. This is considered one of the deepest positions of the 2010 NFL Draft, with 25-30 players generally being considered draft-worthy and as many as 11-to-12 projected as potentially being selected in the first two rounds.
ON THE COLTS' ROSTER
Clint Session, fourth season, Pittsburgh; Philip Wheeler, third season, Georgia Tech; Cody Glenn, second season, Nebraska; Brandon Renkart, first season, Rutgers; Ramon Humber, second season, North Dakota State.
THE LAST FIVE
The last five outside linebackers by the Colts . . .
2008: Philip Wheeler, third round, Georgia Tech.
2007: Clint Session, fourth round, Pittsburgh.
2006: Freddy Keiaho, third round, San Diego State.
2005: Tyjuan Hagler, fifth round, Cincinnati.
2004: Kendyll Pope, fourth round, Florida State.
THIS YEAR'S DRAFT
An alphabetical list of 20 outside linebackers expected to be selected in the 2010 NFL Draft . . .
Navorro Bowman*, Penn State, 6-1, 242
Kavell Conner, Clemson, 6-1, 242
Rennie Curran*, Georgia, 5-11, 235
A.J. Edds, Iowa, 6-4, 246
Brandon Graham, Michigan, 6-2, 268
Thaddeus Gibson*, Ohio State, 6-2, 243
Jerry Hughes, TCU, 6-2, 255
Sergio Kindle, Texas, 6-3, 250
Simoni Lawrence, Minnesota, 6-1, 232
Roddrick Muckelroy, Texas, 6-2, 246
Koa Misi, Utah, 6-3, 251
Arthur Moats, James Madison, 6-0, 246
Eric Norwood, South Carolina, 6-1, 245
Perry Riley, LSU, 6-1, 239
Ricky Sapp, Clemson, 6-4, 252
O'Brien Schofield, Wisconsin, 6-2, 221
Daryl Washington, TCU, 6-2, 230
Dekoda Watson, Florida State, 6-2, 226
Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri, 6-1, 239
Jason Worilds*, Virginia Tech, 6-1, 254
Note: The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on Colts.com in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.