Eagles select DE Brandon Graham
The Philadelphia Eagles got a player they hope gets to the quarterback often.
Looking to bolster their pass rush, the Eagles traded up to select Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham with the 13th pick in Thursday's NFL draft.
Philadelphia sent its first-round pick (24th overall) and a pair of third-round selections (Nos. 70 and 87) to Denver to move up 11 spots. Graham, listed at 6-foot-1 and 268 pounds, had 29 1/2 sacks in 46 games. He was the first defensive player in school history to be voted team MVP twice.
``We felt it was important to better ourselves with the pass rush and defensive line play,'' Eagles coach Andy Reid said. ``We thought Brandon was the best defensive lineman to help us there.''
Some scouts projected Graham to switch to outside linebacker in the NFL because of his size, but the Eagles plan to use him at end. He could start on the left side opposite two-time Pro Bowl right end Trent Cole.
Graham is a disruptive force with nice speed off the edge, good instincts and athleticism. Reid compared him to former Eagle Hugh Douglas, a three-time Pro Bowl pick who had 80 career sacks in 10 seasons.
``He looks a little bit like Hugh Douglas,'' Reid said. ``He kind of plays like Hugh Douglas. He is a relentless, relentless player. He's done it at the high school level, the college level, he did it in the All-Star game and he did it against great competition. A national offensive tackle went ahead of him, he had a very good game against him. He's a very good player.''
The Eagles are usually among the most active teams at the draft. This was the sixth time in eight years they moved up in the first round. They entered with 10 picks, including five in the first three rounds. Philadelphia's next pick - No. 37 - is the one they got in the trade that sent quarterback Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins.
``I'm going do whatever the team wants me to do, but going in with the mentality to learn what I need to get out there and helping my team win,'' Graham said in a conference call.
Graham finished his four-year college career with 56 tackles for a loss and eight forced fumbles. He volunteered to play on special teams as a senior and blocked two punts and recovered one for a touchdown.
``Great pass rusher, disruptive run stopper, humble kid,'' Graham said with a chuckle when asked to describe himself. ``Coachable kid who loves to play football.''
The Eagles needed to improve their pass rush, even though they had 44 sacks last season. Much of their pressure usually came from the blitz, and the front four often gave quarterbacks too much time to sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary.
``A combo of Brandon and our other defensive linemen is a great combo of guys,'' Reid said. ``We felt he was the best player there.''
Graham was surprised the Eagles picked him because he didn't make a visit to Philadelphia and only spoke with the coaching staff at the scouting combine.
``We met for 15 minutes,'' he said. ``I talked with a couple of different scouts, but never in a million years did I think Philadelphia was coming for me.''
Graham is expected to compete for playing time with Victor Abiamiri, Juqua Parker and Darryl Tapp. Parker had eight sacks last year, and Abiamiri registered two. The Eagles traded a fourth-round pick and defensive end Chris Clemons to Seattle to get Tapp last month.
``I haven't sat on the bench for so many years, and I'm not trying to start now,'' Graham said. ``I'm trying to come in and get as much done as I can. I'm trying to learn as much as I can, and I'm just going to show it. I don't like to talk about it too much. I know coach wants me out there as much as possible, and I'm going try to do that. I want to be a starter.''
The Eagles hadn't selected a defensive end in the first round since 2003. They traded up 15 spots to take Miami's Jerome McDougle at No. 15. McDougle was the biggest bust during Reid's first 11 drafts. He never started a game and had just three sacks in four seasons.