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Preseason Scouting Notes: Thomas Graham Jr., CB, Oregon

Senior | 5’11” 197 lbs | Rancho Cucamonga, CA

 

A good zone coverage defender with good play speed and tackling ability, but needs to get better at anticipating routes from man coverage

 

Overview:

Thomas Graham Jr. primarily lined up on the field side of the defense, but has shared responsibility on the boundary side due to injuries. Aside from man coverage, Graham oversaw the flat and outside third of the field while in zone. He was voted as a 2019 Coaches Pac-12 All-Conference honorable mention and named to the 2018 AP All-Conference 2nd team. A 4-star recruit who was the No. 11 ranked cornerback coming out for the 2017 class, he is the current active leader in the FBS with 32 pass breakups.

Strengths:

– Shows enough speed to stay in-phase with receivers on vertical routes and crossers

– Good ball skills and length to contest throwing windows

– Active and patient feet at the release

– Solid change of direction ability and oily hips that flip with ease

– Closes on the ball quickly with proper pursuit angles

– Shows good tackling form, wrapping up the ball carrier and halting YAC opportunities

– Good strength and physicality to jam and pester receivers from the release through route stem

– Shows good read and react ability while diagnosing routes from zone, rarely misses his assignment

– Can shed blocks from the receiver with ease and is willing to set the edge

Areas to improve:

– Peeks at backfield at times and bites on play action, allowing receiver to get behind him

– Fooled on double moves before the receiver’s break, and sometimes caught off guard on in-breaking routes while getting in to his man-turn, leading to get beat inside. Needs to stay square and patient as he will look to grab the receiver

– When attempting jam, needs to work on his timing and keep them in-sync with his feet, leading to lunge

– Closing ability is slow when covering curls and comeback routes, needs to stop his traction sooner and get off quicker to ball 

– Struggles to escape blocks from receivers with good grip strength

– Be more alert and aggressive to the ball, sometimes assumes his teammates will make the tackle

– When defending the run, could look to squeeze the hole

Injury concerns:

Right foot injury (2019 vs Montana. Left late in 2nd quarter and didn’t return to the game).

Projection:

Graham best fits in a zone scheme that uses some off-man concepts due to his play instincts, tackling, and ball skills. He is flexible enough to line up as a boundary or field corner if asked. His 39 of 40 career starts is nothing to laugh at, as Graham has been a dependable defender for Oregon since his arrival. With that in mind, he could make a similar impact to the team that drafts him. He projects to be taken early Day 3 and could climb if he gets better at his press-man coverage skills.

What to watch in 2020:

Graham’s return to Oregon for his senior year arguably gives Oregon the most complete secondary in the nation. To help guide the Ducks to the top, Graham will need to improve his feel for in-breaking routes and work on his jam timing. At the next level, his recovery speed would make him vulnerable against receivers with great route running prowess and acceleration to top it off, so it is important for him to stay patient and not bite on any fakes.