Most of the talk about the Chicago Bears 2021 draft class is on their top two picks. That isn’t a surprise. Landing a hopeful franchise quarterback like Justin Fields is bound to get attention. Then to go up and get his possible blindside protector as well in the 2nd round with Teven Jenkins. After that, the Bears weren’t heard again until the 5th round. Then it was a mad dash of five picks before the finish. Fans found it difficult to keep up. Experts had no issue though, and they came away impressed. Especially with the selection of Thomas Graham.
Don’t feel bad if you’re unfamiliar with the name. The young cornerback didn’t play in 2020, choosing to opt out over concerns with the pandemic. That undoubtedly scared a lot of teams away from taking a chance on him earlier in the draft. Well, that and the fact he’s only 5’11. When the Bears realized he was still floating out there in the 6th round, they couldn’t pass on him again. Anthony Treash of Pro Football Focus claims that decision made Chicago complicit in a severe case of draft robbery.
“Graham was lights out in coverage over his final two seasons, earning a PFF coverage grade of 79.8 in 2018 and 82.9 in 2019. He ranked in the top 10 among FBS cornerbacks in both passing stops (23) and plays made on the ball (29) in those two years combined.
Graham is a patient corner with balanced and nimble feet who also attacks the catch point incredibly well. As noted in the PFF 2021 NFL Draft Guide, his flat-footed breaks are superb. He should be a fantastic fit in the Chicago defense that will be bursting with Vic Fangio’s influence under new defensive coordinator Sean Desai.”
It makes one wonder if Graham opting out worked in the Bears’ favor.
If he hadn’t, he probably would’ve had another good year for the Ducks. In the previous three season he’d produced three, three, and two interceptions respectively. Over that time he also compiled 32 passes defended and a pick-six. If he’d delivered another year along those lines, it’s a safe bet he would have gone somewhere between the 3rd and 4th rounds. Now the Bears get him at a bargain.
Thomas Graham is a classic overachiever
He’s undersized and not overly fast for a cornerback. Yet he seems to always get his hands on the football. This due to his mixture of quickness, intelligence, and instinct. He just has a knack for knowing where the ball is going. That is why he’s so good at jumping routes and sniffing out screens. Something he does repeatedly on tape. His style of play will remind a lot of people of Bryce Callahan.
That means Thomas Graham should be considered an immediate threat to push for the starting job at nickel corner. Buster Skrine departed this offseason due to money and concussion issues. Duke Shelley looked like the early favorite to take over the job after filling in for him late last season. However, it would appear the Graham addition means they’re not ready to hand it to him just yet.
Competition remains the word of power for the Bears.
It will be interesting to see if the team has other moves in mind at the cornerback position. They seem to have an interesting mix of veterans and youths. Yet with two starting jobs open alongside Jaylon Johnson, several questions remain unanswered. If Graham lives up to his potential, then a big one should be taken care of. It would be a fun story and yet another bonus for the Bears’ defense.