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When it comes to OLBs, do you break the mold for Graham?

04.14.10 at 12:34 pm ET
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Brandon Graham has been linked to the Patriots in some mock drafts. (AP)

FOXBORO — There’s a great debate among some Patriots fans about Michigan outside linebacker/defensive end Brandon Graham.

Graham had terrific production in college, but does not fit the traditional mold of a New England outside linebacker. As has been stated before, the 6-foot-1, 260-pound Graham is closer to Elvis Dumervil (5-foot-11, 250 pounds) than Willie McGinest (6-foot-5, 270 pounds). Meanwhile, some other players who enjoyed a lesser level of success at the college level at the same position (like Sergio Kindle and Jerry Hughes, both of whom are 6-foot-3) are more in the mold of the typical outside linebacker that the Patriots have targeted in the past. (Colleague DJ Bean has referred to the 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4 cutoff as “the Belichick Line” for outside linebackers.)

So if all three are on the board at No. 22, do you break the mold and go with Graham, or stick with the traditional model and go for a player like Kindle or Hughes?

In his pre-draft press conference Wednesday at Gillette Stadium, Patriots coach Bill Belichick wasn’t tipping his hand either way, but did acknowledge that the team has a set of physical standards for every position, including the outside linebacker spot. Those standards aren’t necessarily set in stone, but they are a part of the overall evaluation process.

“Some players exceed that standard, some players fall below it. It doesn’t say that players who fall below or don’t meet that standard aren’t good players. Barry Sanders was short for a running back. I don’t think there were that many complaints about the way Barry Sanders played.

“I think when you draft a player like that, you understand that you’re drafting a player that’s shorter than average for his position or he’s slower than average for his position, or he has longer arms than average for his position,” he added. “That’s not the final grade on the player, but it’s something you recognize. When you get a player at that position that’s going to be amongst the fastest players at his position in the league. Or its going to be below average at his position. So we identify that with a player.

“But we do have a standard for every position. Absolutely. So when the scout goes to grade a player, he’s either average in height, above average in height or whatever it happens to be.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Graham, Elvis Dumervil, Jerry Hughes Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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