The Chicago Bears secondary took some hits this offseason. While most people were focused on Kyle Fuller being cut, many forget the team also lost starting nickel cornerback Buster Skrine as well. Replacing those losses weren’t going to be easy. GM Ryan Pace took a step in the right direction when he grabbed Oregon standout Thomas Graham with the last of three picks in the 6th round.
Graham is an interesting story. Though only 5’10, he made a name for himself in the Pac-12. He started three seasons and collected eight interceptions. Not to mention a whopping 32 passes defended. Safe to say he gets his hands on the football a lot. Some people might question his overall speed. That doesn’t seem to matter given how physical he can play in coverage. The guy is sticky and plays with attitude. Exactly what the Bears are looking for.
Graham is a born overachiever.
Don’t be fooled by the height. He plays like he’s seven feet tall. Throw the ball in front of him at your own risk. Not only is he capable of cutting into passing lanes for an interception, but he can also deliver a good pop on wide receivers too. Oregon also wasn’t afraid to use him as a blitzer. He came away with nine tackles for a loss in his three years there. His strength tends to stand out a lot.
What the Bears must be careful about is who they match him up against. For all his positives, Graham isn’t known for his speed. So he could be in danger of getting beat deep if lined up man to man with no cushion. This is part of why he went later than some expected. That and the decision to opt out of playing in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Bears select Oregon CB Thomas Graham
— NFL Draft Diamonds (@DraftDiamonds) May 1, 2021
Ok I see Thomas Graham Jr. got some clamps 👀pic.twitter.com/tlQMJ5NEtN
— ❄️CobyWhiteSzn❄️ (@FieldsSzn69) May 1, 2021
One of most overlooked things when evaluating nickel DB is accounting for whether or not they have substance to handle bigger slot WRs. Impressive rep here by @oregonfootball CB Thomas Graham, who’s giving up 4.5” and 18 lbs. @_TG4__ also was FBS leader in PD (40) entering 2020. pic.twitter.com/OyWxUdfDgG
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) February 24, 2021
Thomas Graham feels like another Bryce Callahan
What he lacks in height he makes up for in grit. That is why Callahan ascended so quickly on the depth chart back in 2015 and became the Bears’ nickel corner. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the same happens with Graham. Getting lost in what he lacks makes it easy to forget what he’s good at. This is somebody who finds the football. If he can’t take it away, he’ll get the ball carrier on the ground.
This should make the slot cornerback competition one to watch in training camp. Duke Shelley looked like a favorite to claim that job after Skrine left. Kindle Vildor and Tre Roberson were possibilities as well. Thomas Graham joining the mix adds another layer of intrigue. It would not be surprising at all if he emerged from the pack to claim that job.
If nothing else the Bears have more depth.
Never a bad thing in what will be a long NFL season. At the time of writing this, Chicago has one pick remaining in the draft. Will it be more help for the defense or will Pace seek to put an exclamation point on what has been a massive offensive overhaul?