TJ Graham – Buffalo's Scapegoat… But why?

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When the Buffalo Bills traded up in the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL Draft to get TJ Graham I was a little upset. I knew for the rest of his career he would be referred to as the guy we drafted instead of the player that was taken after him (Russell Wilson). The fact of the matter is, we drafted something we needed, an outside receiver with a plethora of speed. But regardless of what we needed, from there on out it was natually all eyes on Graham… but it all actuality it was all eyes on a few plays along with his stats.

In 2013 we drafted Marquise Goodwin and I have to tell you, it looked as if we were going to replace TJ Graham, but that didn’t happen and there is a very simple explanation… TJ Graham is a good football player. I am not trying to say that Goodwin isn’t good at what he does, he is an incredible talent as a speed receiver and I think we need to utilize him more, however TJ Graham can flat out play football. A big reason for my opinion is his run blocking ability. On a team that intially planned to “run CJ Spiller until he throws up”  run blocking is extremely important.

It literally took me looking at 1 play on a run by CJ Spiller to get an example of TJ Graham’s blocking ability. This is a play from Buffalo at New England week 17 in the 2013 season. We have Graham in the yellow circle along with CJ Spiller in the backfield with Frank Summers.

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Spiller hits the gap and has nothing, Graham is on his blocking assignment outside, as Spiller makes one of his CJ cuts and bounces outside Cordy Glenn.

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TJ Graham identifies and re-engages his block, but as we have seen CJ Spiller do before he chooses to bounce outside, however Graham laid out a lead block to get CJ to the edge to pick up a quick 24 yard gain before being pushed out of bounds.

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I couldn’t help but notice another great play by Graham later in that same game, a 12 yard touchdown pass to Graham from Thad Lewis. We see Graham lined up in 1 on 1 coverage at the bottom of the screen.

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Lewis has his eyes locked on his slot receiver and the play breaks down, so he starts to flush out of the pocket and Graham identifies this immediately and starts to cut back into the play.

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Lots of arrows on this next one!!! This was an amazing play that I had to watch a couple of times over because I definitely missed it at first. As Lewis is scrambling out Graham makes an impromptu play by faking a block on the DB and turns upfield. All the red arrows show the Patriots focus on Lewis and Graham is just playing straight up backyard football and turns upfield to get open for Lewis.

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There is not a defender within 5 yards of Graham in any direction, and Lewis throws him the ball for the easy score. This was a hell of a job from Graham to give Lewis an open target in a broken play.

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Graham finished the day with 3 receptions for 62 yards and a TD, but his drop at the end of the game on a 4th and 7 is all people will remember from that particular game.

There are many who believe we should draft a WR in the first round. Sammy Watkins has caught my eye as a can’t miss receiver, but I can honestly tell you that for the first time in 5 or 6 years I have no idea what direction we are going in this years draft. Perhaps we trade back and get Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin. An additional WR would definitely put Graham on the bubble, but I can’t see a situation where the Bills don’t keep him around. He is due $580,000 in 2014, and my advice to him would be to spend the entire off-season fielding punts to up his Special Teams value, he can become an integral part of this team as well as helping Leodis McKelvin focus on being a starting corner back in the NFL. I honestly believe that he is going to be safe on this team though, there is another WR whose name rhymes with “measly” that I would like to address before our draft but I will save that for another day.

TJ Graham has had his share of ups and downs in his 2 year career with the Buffalo Bills. He has fumbled at bad times, had some bad drops and ran an incorrect route from time to time. He is in his third year in the league and has a higher ceiling in the NFL than a lot of people give him credit for. If he can persevere through this upcoming training camp then he will raise a lot of eyebrows this season. When all is said and done, this might be looked at as a great 3rd round pick after all.


 

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