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Eagles Coveted Graham From The Beginning

Graham Was Eagles No. 1 Target
By Lance Epstein

The Eagles entered Thursday's draft with 10 draft picks and five in the first 87 picks of the draft. While most fans, experts and media outlets had the Eagles getting help in the secondary, Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman decided to go in a different direction.

When commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement that the Eagles traded their first round pick and both third-round picks (70th and 87th) to Denver's 13th overall selection, everyone immediately assumed it was to select premiere safety Earl Thomas. A safety that had been linked to the Eagles all week long.

However, a move which shocked the NFL world, but no one inside the Eagles organization they decided to chose defensive end Brandon Graham. The Eagles felt he was the much needed and significant upgrade to their front four.

One of the attributes that drew the Eagles to the Michigan product was his relentless motor and ability to be affective not only in the first quarter, but the end of the game as well.

"The thing we like to have with Brandon is he's a relentless player," Reid said. "I think the combination of Brandon and our other defensive linemen, Trent Cole and so on, the addition of (Darryl) Tapp, and (Juqua Parker) and (Victor) Abiamiri, it's a great combination of guys right there.

"Really, we went into this off-season wanting to better ourselves on the defensive line and we think that this helps us out and the thing I know with a good defensive line is it makes everyone around them better. So when you have a defensive line that's getting after it, all of a sudden the corners look a little better and the safeties look a little better and the linebackers look a little better. That's why we made this move."

Graham (6-1, 268) has been compared with and thought of as a player much in the molds of former Eagle Hugh Douglas and current Eagle Trent Cole. He is a guy that never gives up on the play and is a hard worker.

"I haven't been around a lot of players that played harder than Trent Cole," Reid said. "That's the way (Graham) played at that level, at the college level. We'll see what he does here."

Some fans questioned why the Eagles decided to leap frog up the draft board 11 slots to obtain Graham, but Reid made it perfectly clear that the Eagles had been honing in on Graham from the start of the draft. Additionally, they felt if they waited any longer their division rival the New York Giants or the Tennessee Titans might have snatched their guy before they even had the opportunity to grab him. Reid might have been right since the Giants took defensive end Jason-Pierre Paul at No. 15 and the Titans followed with selection Derrick Morgan.

"As long as we felt that we could get to where we could grab him," Reid said, when asked if he expected to move up. "That area right in there was a sticky area. What you know is the good defensive ends, the good secondary players, the good offensive tackles, those guys normally go fairly early in the draft. So you saw it."

Another reason that Reid feels that the Eagles had no other option but to get Graham is to take pressure off of Cole and finish the revamping of their defense. Earlier in the offseason, the Eagles shipped off Chris Clemmons, released Darren Howard and let Jason Babin walk away. Certainly, they got Darryl Tapp from the Seahawks, but he is more of a rotational player. As for Graham is a threat on every play and will be the starting left defensive end, which will help Cole avoid seeing constant double teams.

"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 and he's seen it all."

Ultimately for Reid and the Eagles, Graham's character made him the easy choice and also the best available player when they were selecting.

"I put a lot of value in guys who play relentless football and that have the character that you want," Reid said. "So I think he kind of filled all those spots. He had, I also like defensive linemen that do a good job of playing and making plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage and there weren't a lot of them better in college football than this kid."

The pick of Graham is very similar to the selection of Miami defensive end Jerome McDougle in 2003. The Eagles jumped up to 15 to get McDougle and traded with a AFC West team in the San Diego Chargers. With Graham they move up to 13 and made a deal with the Denver Broncos. Also, what is eerily similar is that in 2003 the very next pick was a safety. in 2003, it was Troy Polamalu and last night it was Thomas.

Still, Graham is an entirely different player than McDougle. Unlike McDougle, he has good character, a high motor and has proven it at the college level for more than a mere season. Remember McDougle was shot in the stomach while on the Eagles (shows lack of good judgment) and was arrested the day after the Eagles selected him.

Graham might turn out to be a very good pick for the Eagles, but they left some good talent on the board by taking him. Especially in the secondary, where they could use all the help they can get. This pick would have been a phenomenal pick if the Eagles somehow would have managed to get back into the first round and acquired either the falling Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson, Rutgers' Devin McCourty or even Florida State's Patrick Robinson.

Nevertheless, the Eagles probably are not going to take a cornerback high in the second round with the No. 37 pick considering none are worthy of the selection. Expect the Eagles to go with the best player available or trading back to get back a third-round pick. This list includes OT Roger Saffold, OT Charles Brown, FS Taylor Mays, FS Nate Allen or OLB Sergio Kindle.

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