Thomas Graham Jr NFL Draft Overview
Weight: 193 pounds
Thomas Graham 2021 NFL Draft Profile
Cornerback is one of the toughest positions to transition to from college into the NFL. It will be even tougher for prospects who haven’t played at all since 2019. Thomas Graham Jr opted out of the 2020 college season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Graham turned heads with the success he had in drills at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. He doesn’t have the high-end athletic traits of some of the cornerbacks ranked ahead of him in the 2021 draft, but showcased solid technique and excellent ball skills as a three-year starter at Oregon.
Born in California, Graham attended Rancho Cucamonga High School where he was recruited by several college programs. He originally committed to USC in July 2015. However, Graham de-committed from the Trojans and committed to Oregon in December 2016.
Graham started 12 of 13 games as a freshman, racking up 62 total tackles, and showcased good ball skills with three interceptions. He backed up a solid freshman campaign with three more interceptions as a sophomore in 2018. In his final playing season, Graham made two more interceptions, including one made in the 2020 Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. In total for his college career, Graham made 183 tackles and eight interceptions in 40 games.
- Good size for an NFL cornerback – can play with physicality;
- Productive – Three-year starter, filled the stat sheet;
- Showcased solid route recognition – Anticipates well;
- Contributes in run support – willing to take on blockers;
- Able to make plays on the ball – great timing.
- Not a fluid mover – hips can be slow to open up at the top of a receiver’s route;
- Gets upright in his backpedal;
- Doesn’t have great recovery speed when he loses early on a route;
- Occasionally gets caught guessing;
- More athletic cornerbacks in this draft class
NFL Comparison: Steven Nelson
A former third-round pick, Nelson truly broke out with the Pittsburgh Steelers after signing a three-year, $25.5 million contract. Nelson played in predominantly zone coverage but can hold his own man coverage by playing physical with decent size. He contributes in run support, usually making around 50 tackles a season. Like Graham, Nelson is not an upper-echelon athlete and doesn’t possess good make-up speed when he’s beaten early in the route. However, Nelson is a good playmaker on the ball when he stays in the route, with seven career interceptions to his name.
Projection: Round Three/Four
Bottom Line on Thomas Graham Jr
Graham is a good, not great athlete who competes with a high football IQ. His ability to recognize route patterns allowed him to make a lot of splash plays for the Oregon Ducks in college. That is a transferable skill to the NFL. His football IQ will give him an opportunity to compete with higher echelon athletes lined up opposite him. Graham’s willingness to compete in the run game will also tick a lot of boxes for coaches.
However, when he guessed wrong at Orgeon it led to blown assignments, particularly in man coverage. There is an obvious lack of makeup speed when he loses early in the route lined up in man coverage. Which will only be highlighted against NFL-caliber wide receivers. Graham’s best fit would be in a zone-heavy scheme where he’s asked to play man coverage sparingly. He’s not built to hold up play after play against more wide receivers with elite top-end speed or quick-twitch route runners.
That said, there’s a lot to like about Graham. He could be a starter from Day 1 in the right scheme and would provide quality depth to a contending team. His instincts and ball skills could lead to some splash plays. Despite missing 2020, the former Oregon Duck has a lot of reps under his belt from his time in college. While he doesn’t have the high upside of other prospects in this class, Graham has good size, competes snap to whistle, and has a relatively high floor.
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