Indianapolis signed cornerback Nick Graham on Tuesday, adding him to the 53-man roster. Graham attended the University of Tulsa, where he appeared in 50 games, with 30 starts, totaling 180 tackles, 20 passes defended, and seven interceptions in his four seasons with the Golden Hurricanes.
He did not receive an invitation to the 2007 Combine, but posted a time of 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Nick Graham defends a pass in a preseason game against the Jets
AP Photo/Mel Evans
He survived the final cut and made the regular roster last season, appearing in 15 games with no starts. He played exclusively on special teams and tallied 12 tackles.
After the Eagles acquired Asante Samuel in the offseason, there was less room on the roster for Graham and he was released on August 30th, when Philadelphia made their final cuts for 2008.
The Cleveland Browns brought him in to be worked out recently and the St. Louis Rams also showed interest in him, but the Colts were the team that ended up with him.
At 5-feet-10 and 194 pounds, Graham has the kind of size the Colts are looking for at the cornerback position and, with a 4.7 time in the 40, has the kind of stopwatch speed that they apparently seek as well.
In the Cover 2 scheme, the cornerback needs to support the run and attend to his area of the zone, first and foremost, so more of an emphasis is placed on his awareness and ability to hit, which are two attributes that Graham no doubt picked up covering kicks for the Eagles last season.
He had nine passes defended as a senior at Tulsa and, while the level of competition is significantly higher than that of Conference USA — another knock on him when he declared for the draft — that also proves that he tends to be around the ball, though the fact that he only kept his hands on seven passes throughout his entire collegiate career shows that he's not particularly adept at catching it when it comes in his direction.
Looking back at the 2007 draft rankings, Graham was ranked only 90th overall at his position by veteran scout Tom Marino. The fact that a healthy percentage of the 89 men ranked ahead of him are either out of the league or sitting at home, waiting for the phone to ring, however, says a great deal about his determination and aptitude.
With Kelvin Hayden's recent injury, it makes sense that the Colts brought Graham on board, but he is obviously not the answer to fill Hayden's shoes.
If Hayden is not able to go, Tim Jennings will likely get a bump to the starting lineup and Dante Hughes will see a good deal of action in sub packages, although safety Jamie Silva will definitely play a role in that area.
Since Silva and Hughes will be playing more snaps on defense, someone has to step in and fill their spot on special teams, which is precisely where Graham comes in.
In the short term, he's a solution to the kicking game gap. In the long term, given his ability to learn and overcome long odds, he could play much larger factor.