Published April 23, 2010
| Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Brandon Graham wore a big smile on his face throughout his first news conference, politely answered every question and then shook hands with nearly everyone in the auditorium.
Graham sure is cordial. It doesn't mean the Philadelphia Eagles' first-round pick plays soft.
"I'll hit somebody and smile right over them and let them know I'm coming back the next play," Graham said Friday.
The Eagles coveted Graham so much they moved up 11 spots to grab the Michigan defensive end with the 13th overall pick in Thursday night's NFL draft. Philadelphia sent its first-round pick (24th overall) and a pair of third-round selections (Nos. 70 and 87) to Denver in the trade.
He could start on the left side opposite two-time Pro Bowl right end Trent Cole. Graham, listed at 6-foot-1 and 268 pounds, already has been compared to Cole and former Eagle Hugh Douglas because of his size and playing style. Douglas went to three Pro Bowls and had 80 career sacks in 10 seasons.
"I haven't been around a lot of players who play harder than Trent Cole," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "That's the way this kid played at that level, at the college level. We'll see what he does here. Hugh Douglas was a little bit that same way. Both Hugh and Trent have phenomenal motors."
Graham had 29½ sacks, 56 tackles for a loss and eight forced fumbles in 46 games during a four-year career. He was the first defensive player in school history to be voted team MVP twice.
The Eagles have been looking for another strong pass rusher to play along with Cole and prevent teams from double-teaming him. Philadelphia rotated several players at left end last year, including holdovers Juqua Parker and Victor Abiamiri. They traded defensive end Chris Clemons and a fourth-round pick to Seattle to get end Darryl Tapp last month, and released veteran end Darren Howard.
"If you have two good defensive ends, it's hard to double both of them," Reid said. "Trent gets chipped and doubled and everything else. He's seen it all."
Some scouts had projected Graham as a linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL. One of his favorite players is Baltimore's Ray Lewis. But the Eagles will keep Graham at defensive end, where he's played since his freshman year at Michigan.
"Growing up I always watched Ray Lewis playing linebacker. I always just wanted to be that one that's always going to be around the ball," Graham said. "Always the big-hit guy. Somebody who you can always expect that he's going to bring the 'boom' to somebody and stuff like that. I try to be that leader out there and let everybody know that I'm fighting for you and I want you to fight for me."
The Eagles haven't had much success with defensive ends taken in the first round. The last one they took was Jerome McDougle in 2003. Philadelphia traded up 15 spots to take the former Miami Hurricane at No. 15. McDougle never started a game and had just three sacks in four seasons.
Jon Harris (1997) and Mike Mamula (1995) are the only other two ends they've selected in the first round in the past 25 years. Harris was a bust and Mamula never lived up to expectations after going at No. 7.
If Graham ends up performing like some recent No. 13 picks, he'll make an immediate impact in Philadelphia. Washington's Brian Orakpo had 11 sacks as a rookie last year. Cleveland's Kamerion Wimbley also had 11 sacks as a rookie in 2006.
"I know how to play the game of football and I'm going to go out there and be a coachable kid and try to learn everything the coaches try to do to be a part of the team," Graham said.