Monday, June 14, 2021

Will Thomas Graham Jr be the next diamond in the rough?

We ran a poll on Twitter last week asking which of the Bears late round picks would have the biggest impact in the upcoming season.

While the turnout was low, the majority voted in favour of cornerback Thomas Graham Jr out of Oregon. So we decided to look a bit more into what Graham Jr could bring to the Chicago Bears this season, and predict just how big of an impact he could make.

Graham Jr was selected by the Bears with the last pick of the 6th round of the NFL draft last weekend. The late selection came as a surprise to many who thought that Graham Jr would be selected earlier in the draft.

PFF had Graham Jr ranked at 78th in their top 100 draft prospects for 2021, placing him somewhere in the 3rd round. Chicago picked him up with their compensatory selection at number 228.

Graham Jr, like many others, decided to sit out the 2020 season. He did however accept an invitation to the senior bowl and put on a performance that piqued scouts’ interest. This year, the draft stock of many a draft prospect has been affected by 2020 sit outs. Teams have been less likely to use earlier round picks on some of these guys, causing them to fall down the boards.

Graham Jr was a 3-year starter at Oregon prior to the 2020 season. In those 3 years he played in 40 games registering 182 total tackles, 40 passes defended, 32 PBUs 8 interceptions and 1 forced fumble.

Some scouting reports emphasise that Graham Jr is an average athlete, with limited agility and lacking in top-end speed; however, the kid ran a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, so maybe it’s an oversight.

His strengths are found in his great anticipation, good technique, good ball skills and competitiveness.

He comes to a Chicago Bears defence which is in a transition phase. Chuck Pagano has given way to newly appointed rookie defensive coordinator Sean Desai. Desai is a disciple of Bears fan favourite Vic Fangio, and we all saw what he could do to develop DBs in his system – see Kyle Fuller.

If Graham Jr performs well then he could very well become a big contributor to this team. Currently the Bears two starting CBs are 2nd year man Jaylon Johnson and likely the veteran free agent pick-up Desmond Trufant.

Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson celebrates an incomplete pass intended for Detroit Lions receiver Marvin Jones on the final play of the Lions’ 27-23 loss at Ford Field, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020.

Graham Jr and Johnson already know each other from their high school days, so having that connection there already will be useful for the rookie.

There is a lot of competition for places in the CB room this season after the release of Kyle Fuller. Graham Jr could very well be another of Ryan Pace’s late round diamonds. With so many players on short-term deals, he has an opportunity. I can see him competing with Duke Shelley for the starting slot position.

Let’s see what happens in camp.

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