Which receivers were truly most effective with the ball in their hands last season? We look at the leaders in YAC+ for 2014 and the last nine years.
12 Apr 2010
by David Gardner
By all accounts, Brandon Graham will be a first-round pick later this month. The two-time Michigan defensive MVP led the nation in tackles for loss last season and is known as a disruptive playmaker in the backfield.
The problem is that team's aren't sure where to put him. In high school, he was an outside linebacker, but he transition to a 4-3 end in college. He is a bit on the small side (6-2, 270) for an end position in the NFL, so many teams have been looking at him as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
On Wednesday, he spoke on the phone with Football Outsiders.
Football Outsiders: What do you offer to NFL teams?
Brandon Graham: I'm a great pass rusher, a terrific run stopper, and my motor is continuous.
FO: Teams aren't exactly sure where to put you because of your size. Are you still getting a lot of questions about that, or have you proved it's not an issue?
Graham: I think I've proved that it's not an issue now. I think the issue now is, "Can I drop and move?" I need to, just in case I play linebacker in the 3-4 scheme, or wherever they want to put me.
FO: What have you been doing to prepare yourself to fly around in a 3-4 scheme?
Graham: All I've been doing is just doing linebacker drills, because I have the d-line drills down. I just wanna get acclimated with those drills, really.
FO: Talk about those drills specifically.
Graham: Just dropping deep, at least 10 or 15 yards. I've been working on breaking on the ball and going through bags and trying to shuffle through the bags a little bit. And I'm gonna do some of the drills at the Combine.
FO: Are teams projecting you just based on what kind of defense that they run? For example, Were there any 4-3 teams looking at you as an outside linebacker?
Graham: They asked me, "Would I fit in their scheme?" That's how every team approached it. They asked me about why I would be able to fit into their scheme too, stuff like that.
FO: So when a 3-4 team asks you about your ability to transition to linebacker when you've played end for the last four years, what do you say?
Graham: I just say, "Yes sir." I played linebacker all my life before I got to Michigan. I know how to react and how to get back and cover. I know that I'll be able to do it again.
FO: What's the difference in approaching the pass rush from the 3-4 where you've got the extra step versus taking the tackle on straight on from a 4-3 end position?
Graham: It's really different. I think it gives me an advantage to be in a 3-point stance because I can use the force from the ground to push off. The difference, standing up, is that I'll have to learn how to come off just as fast as from a 3-point stance. So that's all I've been working on -- the get-off is the key.
FO: In college, you were able to surprise offensive tackles with your power. How will that part of your game spread over to a 3-4?
Graham: I don't think it will be hard at all to transition. I use my hands well, and I believe I'm very strong. I'll be able to control whoever the offensive lineman is. I'll be able to get off of him and make the play.
FO: Do you have a preference between the two schemes?
Graham: I like the 4-3 now, but I'll be able to adjust to the 3-4 and still be able to do as good as I have been doing. I just have to really be in there for dropping back and doing everything a little bit early so that I can have an impact in my first year.
FO: What have you been doing to work on your coverage skills? That's something you haven't done for the last few years at Michigan.
Graham: I was watching what teams look for at the Combine. I haven't looked at the film, I've just looked at the Combine.
FO: Talk about the Combine a little bit. You ran really well and put up 225 pounds 31 times. What were teams telling you there?
Graham: I interviewed with a lot of teams. They were just telling me, good job on the bench, good job on the 40. They were just disappointed because I pulled my hamstring before they could see the drills and stuff. This is where I left off, I feel. They didn't get to see my linebacker drills -- the way I move and open my hips, they didn't see that.
FO: How's the hamstring now?
Graham: Oh, it's feeling really good. I'm happy that it just two weeks to recover. It wasn't serious, like I thought it was. I believe it's 100 percent. At the Combine, I thought it was gonna bleed out, but it didn't bruise ... that's what I meant by serious. I just strained it really bad.
FO: How upsetting was that, when you were having a really good Combine?
Graham: It was depressing at first because you wait your whole life to be in the Combine, and when you get there, you can't participate like you want to. But I know it was better to prepare for Pro Day.
FO: Do you pay much attention to the mock drafts and where you're projected?
Graham: I don't know watch it myself, but I hear it from a lot of people. Everyone else watches it and texts me or tells me.
FO: What is your feel from your agent and from teams as far as where you'll be going? Mid-first round?
Graham: I'm just happy to be thought of in the first round. Anywhere I go in the first round -- I'm not really worried at all. Just happy that I'm a big name in the first round. But they can take me anywhere, and I'll play my hardest.
FO: Who are the NFL players that you are trying emulate yourself?
Graham: I would really like to have a career like Elvis Dumervil has been having. I haven't ever talked to him, but I love his game -- how he converts speed to power. He's really good at that, and he uses his hands really well. His arm length -- he's short but his arms are long -- really affects offensive tackles. He's a short guy who can get past you with his speed.
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