Michigan’s Brandon Graham Could Be the Pass Rusher Patriots Need

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Michigan's Brandon Graham Could Be the Pass Rusher Patriots Need This isn't exactly a scientific survey, but Michigan defensive end/outside linebacker Brandon Graham seems to have landed in New England on more mock drafts than any other player. Maybe there is something to it, or maybe his name has simply gained too much steam on these boards. Either way, Graham looks like a potential first-round draft pick who could find himself wearing a Patriots jersey next week.

Key Stats
The 6-foot-1, 268-pounder registered 29.5 career sacks. As a senior, he led the country with 26 tackles for loss and also had 10.5 sacks.

Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Graham is one of those never-say-die players who won't stop attacking until after the whistle. At Michigan, he showed a knack for getting into the backfield, outsmarting blockers and overpowering offensive tackles. Bill Belichick has historically been fond of players from Ann Arbor, and Graham might be able to play defensive end or outside linebacker. Some call it versatility. …

Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
… Others say he is too small to be successful at either position. Sure, Belichick can point to shorter players like Barry Sanders who have excelled in the league, but those guys are the exception. There's no doubting that Graham was a phenomenal player at the college level, but it's hard for some to imagine him carrying that to the NFL. It will be hard for him to shed blocks with his vertically challenged frame and short arms, and those are some serious concerns for a first-round pick in a deep draft.

Potential Impact in 2010
It's tough to say where Graham would fit with the Patriots, but he might be best suited to line up on the outside in a three-point stance like Tully Banta-Cain. Graham probably wouldn't be an every-down player, considering he is untested in pass coverage. The Patriots obviously need guys who can get to the quarterback and Graham could be that player, but it's difficult to believe he'd have more than a situational role.

What the Locals are Saying
Graham's career has followed that of former Michigan star LaMarr Woodley.

Likelihood Graham Is Available at No. 22
There is a very good chance Graham is still around when New England makes its initial selection. The Titans (No. 16) and Falcons (No. 19) are probably the only two teams that could conceivably take Graham prior to the Pats' pick.

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NESN.com will spotlight players the Patriots could take with their first-round pick.
April 12: Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham
April 13: Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap
April 14: Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant

April 16: Clemson running back C.J. Spiller

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