When Graham and his half-brother Khaseem Greene (their father, Raymond Graham, played football at Purdue) say they’ll run into each other on Saturday –- they mean it. In fact, the Rutgers linebacker and 2011 Big East Defensive Player of the Year was part of six tackles against his brother in last October’s meeting (though Graham had 159 rushing yards on the day). This year, the teams meet in the penultimate regular season game –- but since both have NFL talent, it probably won’t be the last time their pads will pop.
Graham spent his first two years on campus as the back-up to Dion Lewis. He played in 13 games as a true freshman, carrying 61 times for 349 yards and four scores, and received more work in 2010 (two starts in 12 games; 148-922, eight TD rushing; 24 receptions for 213 yards, two TD receiving). In addition, Lewis returned 38 kicks for 838 yards over those first two years. It looked as though Graham was in for a big junior year as a full-time starter in 2011, rushing for 958 yards and nine touchdowns (and catching 30 passes for 200 yards) in the first eight weeks of the year before tearing his right ACL against Connecticut. He worked hard to make it back for his senior season, carrying the ball 14 times for 71 yards in the season opener. Graham’s play improved as the season went on, as he eclipsed the 100 yard mark in three of his final five games, with a 94 yard rushing performance vs South Florida to end his season, but he suffered a hamstring injury in bowl practices which kept him out of the BBVA Compass Bowl. His impressive work as a runner (222-1042-11 TDs) and receiver (36-340-2 TDs) earned him All-Big East first-team honors.
Undersized but explosive back who runs with no wasted movement, Not shy about running through compressed spaces and picks his way through trash well inside. Tough inside runner who uses vision, feel and quick lateral movement to sidestep defenders to find space to run in the box. Accelerates in a hurry once he get the hole, rips off five or six yards in the blink of an eye. Spins off tackles with feet churning, stays balanced to keep forward movement. Uses the same lean and excellent balance to win one-on-one battles outside. Solid receiving threat out of the backfield. Catches the ball naturally with his hands before accelerating upfield and shows the ability to adjust to the ball. Lines up in the slot on occasion, shows quickness in his routes to create mismatches in space. Gives good effort to mirror and sustain blocks against rushers in pass protection. Patient reading and following his pulling linemen. Experienced running base NFL run plays from under center.
Only average in his overall size, might have more trouble moving piles and breaking tackles inside against NFL defenders. Gets going east-west too and will hit the cutback too early. Won’t elude pro defenders as easily. Durability is a concern. Has not started a full season, missing on his opportunity in 2011 due to a right ACL tear and his bowl game in 2012 due to a hamstring. Did not play with the same top-end elusiveness and breakaway speed he showed before his knee injury.
The next Pittsburgh running back likely to make his way to the NFL, Graham looked to translate his quickness between the tackles to a big year in 2011 (958 yards, nine touchdowns in eight games) before a torn right ACL struck him down. Graham has averaged six yards a carry for Pitt in his first three years, but durability will be more important to scouts if he is to maximize his draft grade as a senior and join half-brother and Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene as top 75 picks. He did not appear to be playing in 2012 at 100 percent, as he looked noticeably less explosive and his yards per carry dipped (4.7). Being another year removed from his ACL tear could give him the rare elusiveness and top-end speed he once showed however, and he could be one of the steals of the 2012 draft if he checks out medically.
Future Hall of Famer
A once-in-a-generation type prospect who could change how his position is played
An impact player with the ability/intangibles to become a Pro Bowl player. Expect to start immediately except in a unique situation (i.e. behind a veteran starter).
A quality player who will contribute to the team early on and is expected to develop into a starter. A reliable player who brings value to the position.
A prospect with the ability to make team as a backup/role player. Needs to be a special teams contributor at applicable positions. Players in the high range of this category might have long-term potential.
A player with solid measurables, intangibles, college achievements, or a developing skill that warrants an opportunity in an NFL camp. In the right situation, he could earn a place on a 53-man roster, but most likely will be a practice squad player or a camp body.