Five Years in the Making, Brandon Graham is Sky High – 2015 IDP Breakout
The headline speaks for itself but better late than never, right? Brandon Graham was the 13th overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, one pick before Earl Thomas (yes I went there, sorry!) and before he could even blink he was getting the “bust” label. Before the Eagles shifted to a 3-4 defensive scheme, with Graham becoming an OLB, he played as a 4-3 DE under former coach Andy Reid; and it didn’t look so good early on. Graham barely played as a rookie then started to get a little comfortable before tearing his ACL in 2011, in 2012 he registered five sacks then 2013 came and that’s when the defense switched to a 3-4 scheme and Graham made the switch to OLB but was behind Trent Cole in the depth chart (not surprising).
Graham had slight success in his first year as an OLB, as far as pass rush efficiency went he was the 15th overall 3-4 OLB via PFF (Pro Football Focus) and 7th overall for pass rush productivity as he put up 27 QB pressures on 353 snaps. Slowly but surely Graham was putting it all together and blocking out the naysayers who labeled him a bust in his young career. It’s quite impressive though in today’s day and age that the Eagles kept Graham throughout his development; he could’ve been cut on other teams as they would’ve gone elsewhere. As the Eagles never gave up on Graham, he made them believers in 2014, the start of his breaking out of his young career.
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In 2014, Graham put up astounding numbers as a rotational player (524 snaps, 240 of those was a pass rush), registered a total of 51 QB pressures (hits, hurries, sacks) and 12 Eagles defensive players played more snaps than Graham, yet he was still tops on team in this category. Graham was also 4th most efficient pass rusher on a per snap basis as an OLB. Impressive, aye? From all that pressure he was facing as a rookie, that’s all behind him now as Graham is about to take flight. In a nutshell Graham has racked up 77 QB pressures on a total of 383 pass rushing snaps in the last 2 years, simply stating Graham is a beast.
As we enter 2015, the Eagles re-signed Graham to a 4-year, $26 million contract with $14 million guaranteed and with Trent Cole having been released and gone on to the Colts; it has become Graham’s opportunity to shine. He is entering camp as a starter for the first time and has embraced his new role, dropped weight so he can feel more comfortable dropping back into coverage as he becomes the Eagles’ new “Predator” — normally the OLB who is the team’s best pass rusher. After seeing 524 snaps in 2014, you can expect a solid jump to about 800 snaps in 2015 and his numbers will skyrocket (Cole played about 70 percent of the snaps, and Graham should at least see that amount if not more). Graham will be looking to improve on his 22 percent of his snaps resulted in some sort of QB Pressure, that’s pretty impressive.
IDP Outlook: Graham could strictly be thought of as a big play LB, being that you’ll draft him for his sacks and turnovers he loves to create (4 Forced Fumbles last year). The opportunity is there for Graham and don’t miss out on it, he’s about to put up stellar numbers with an increased role as I strongly view him as a LB4 with a handful of LB2 type weeks. He may take a hit due to the fact that the defense rosters three solid ILB and there’s a possibility Kendricks gets some snaps outside, if so we must hope Graham moves up front to the line (in nickel at least) otherwise this will put a damper on his value. I can’t see why Graham can’t put up Terrell Suggs-type numbers — 50-65 tackles, 10-12 sacks — and without a doubt that screams breakout and definitely will shake off the “bust” label that some gave him. So if you need some LB depth for your squad, give Graham a look he could win you some weeks.