Justin K. Aller
Running back is always a position that teams should be on the lookout for late-round steals, and Pitt's Ray Graham definitely fits that bill.
Every year players slip a round or two based solely on a previous injury. Sometimes those guys end up being huge steals (Rob Gronkowski comes to mind, as does Bob Sanders, to an extent). One guy in the 2013 Draft that fits this description is Pittsburgh RB Ray Graham, who is getting this label despite an ACL injury happening back in October, 2011.
Graham spent his first two seasons playing second fiddle to Dion Lewis, who was a 5th round pick for the Eagles back in 2011, and hasn't really gotten on the field much. Graham and Lewis essentially split carries back in 2010, as it was becoming clear Graham was clearly the better back of the two (6.2 YPC vs. 4.8 YPC), although a large chunk of those yards came against FIU (277 rush yards). He was on his way to sensational season in 2011 before it was cut short by the aforementioned ACL injury in their 8th game. In fact, he was just slightly behind pace of the legendary Tony Dorsett Heisman season of 1976. It was a huge blow, to say the least.
While he obviously didn't have the recovery and year that Adrian Peterson did, he still made it back for their season opener, and it did take him some time to get rolling, but he still rushed for over 1000 yards, averaged 4.7 yards per carry, and absolutely killed a Notre Dame rush defense with 173 yards, which until that dreadful Title game was on-par with the best rush defenses in the country. In fact, Graham was the first RB to score a rushing TD against the Irish Defense, something USC and Lane Kiffen are still trying to do at this moment... He did suffer a hamstring injury during bowl practices that kept him out of their bowl game.
An interesting note about Graham is that his half brother is Rutgers LB Khaseem Greene, who we'll be profiling later this week. Their father, Raymond Graham, played college football at Purdue.
Graham seemed like a guy that pre-injury would easily have been looked at as a 2nd round pick at worst, and now he's being talked about in the 4th-6th range. He's also a guy that even though he played for a new head coach in each of his last three seasons, their Offensive scheme didn't really change that much, which was an under-center, pro-style Offense, much like the one that'll be employed in Indianapolis next season. Last year, the Colts used their 5th round pick on a RB that slipped further than he should have in Vick Ballard, and Graham would be a nice complement to Ballard, without having to use a high pick. There's obviously the injury risk there, but the rewards may outweigh the risks here, especially with a guy who is used to running this style of Offense.
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. 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.
NFL Comparison: Ahmad Bradshaw
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