2015 NFL Free Agency Preview: Top 5 Defensive Ends

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Nov 10, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham (55) knocks the ball loose from Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

2. Brandon Graham

Pros: Graham is an athletic, strong pass rusher who is sturdy and strong enough to stop the inside run but has the top-end speed and moves necessary to pass rush off the edge effectively and pursue an outside runner and keep contain. He has speed to beat offensive tackles around the corner but he also can drive into a blocker with his impressive strength and thick frame, stack and shed. He can easily defeat tight ends and backs who attempt to block him and needs to be blocked by an offensive tackle. He can hold his edge in the run, forcing plays inside, and can get free and finish the play as well.

Cons: Isn’t necessarily great with his hands, and lacks a variety of pass-rushing moves to help him finish. He can apply great pressure to quarterbacks, but he is too often just a hair away from actually sealing the deal, and has never had more than 5.5 sacks in a season in his career. He may lack ideal size to play as a 5-tech end.

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  • Scheme Fit: Graham has been used as an outside linebacker for Philadelphia and it is not a fit for him, as he lacks the lateral quickness to really be an effective stand-up player. He’s a natural 4-3 hand-in-the-ground end who can play the 7 or 9 technique and can hold his own in the run game against offensive linemen. While he’s a tad small for a 5-tech role at 6’2″ and 265, he could play the position if called upon because of his strength and good leverage.

    Market Value: Graham is a good young (27 next month) edge defender who GM’s and coaches know was out of position in Philadelphia and fits best as a 4-3 end. He’ll attract some attention, though not as much as Hughes, but probably only by teams looking to use him as a 4-3 end. Because he’s neither a household name nor a big stats guy, look for him to get a three or four year deal, in the range of $15M-$20M.

    Would he sign with the Raiders: yes. Graham fits what the Raiders need from a free agent end. He’s probably going to be relatively affordable, he’s still young, and he’s an effective run defender, meaning he can stay on the field all three downs and be used in multiple fronts. He’d be a great fit for that LEO end spot opposite Khalil Mack, and could see his production increase in such a look. The Raiders might be the spot for the young player.

    Next: 2015 Free Agent DE Rankings: #3 Greg Hardy