April 23, 2010

Jimmy Graham, tight end, Miami (FL)

Jimmy Graham, tight end, Miami (FL) - 95th overall pick (3rd round)
6'6 1/2, 260, 4.56 40

The Saints wrapped up Friday night with towering converted hoops player Jimmy Graham from the University of Miami (Florida).  Graham, a hard-knocks youth from Goldsboro, N.C., was a four-year basketball player for the Hurricanes at forward, winning team Outstanding Defender honors.  He played high school football defensive end and receiver and when he exhausted his basketball eligibility, head football coach Randy Shannon recruited him to play tight end. Showed courage with an ambitious double major and a great story.

The Saints abandoned their "best player available" strategy for this pick.  Talk about luxury - Graham joins the Saints where fellow Hurricanes Alum Jeremy Shockey starts and is backed up by David Thomas. 

Graham is an unbelievable athlete who, like the Saints first two draft picks, is unrefined.  In Graham's case, unrefined is an understatement - he has played 10 football games since his freshman year of high school and is learning a new position.  Extremely impressive pro day - blistering 4.56 40, school-record for tight ends 40.5 inch vertical leap, and huge hands over 10.5".  He ran a lightning-quick 6.90 three cone drill.

Graham has the build like long-time Chiefs TE and current Falcons veteran Tony Gonzales, another former collegiate basketball player.  Like WR Marques Colston, he strongly goes up to catch the football like he is rebounding a basketball.  Loves contact - he bragged at the combine that he fouled out of most basketball games and was known as a tough, fighting defender.

Graham went to the Scouting Combine instead of playing basketball in Europe.  In an NFL locker room, Graham will add significant bulk, giving the Saints two straight picks in need of a complete frame overhaul, with T Charles Brown.

Graham's negatives are obvious.  He had bad drops against Virginia Tech and Florida State, but his first three catches were touchdowns.  Graham was not asked to block much at Miami.  

His immediate contributions could be on kick block teams.  Hard to imagine, but Graham's size gives him a red zone presence to rival Colston and Shockey.

The Saints still haven't addressed the defensive front seven, and for a third time passed on USC DE Everson Griffen.  We wrote in our early mock drafts that the Saints had a book on Griffen, considering how much the Saints have drafted Southern Cal over the past three seasons.  At this point it is clear that Griffen's rep as a soft worker have sunk his draft stock into day three.

Others on the board: South Carolina LB Eric Norwood, Northwestern DE Corey Wootton, LSU DT Al Woods, Clemson DE Ricky Sapp, North Carolina DT Cam Thomas, Georgia DT Gene Atkins, Ohio State DE Thaddeus Gibson - a familiar list that we've watched drop through all of day two.

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