The Buffalo Bills traded up in the third round to the 69th overall pick to grab wide receiver T.J. Graham from North Carolina State. They moved up two spots with the Washington Redskins and gave up one of their two seventh round picks (217th overall) to get their speed receiver. The Bills had three glaring needs heading into the draft and they have now addressed all three with their first three picks.
Graham may not have the ideal size to play opposite of Stevie Johnson, but he has outstanding speed and head Coach Chan Gailey stated unequivocally that he will line up outside.
"He's 5'11" and something and he can run by most everybody, I mean the guy can fly," said Gailey.
"We like his speed and he can catch the football and return. They'll have to cover deep," said Bills GM Buddy Nix.
When asked why the Bills made a move up the board, Nix admitted they were worried Graham wouldn't be there.
"We didn't want to get that close and not get him," he said.
Graham was a successful punt and kick returner in college. He took back two kicks and two punts for scores in his four-year collegiate career. He has a track background, but never let it get in the way of football. Gailey indicated that they're inclined to let him focus on receiver first.
"I don't know that we'll (have him return) off the bat," said Gailey. "We'll let him work at receiver and let him be proficient there."
Graham ran a 4.41 at the NFL Combine in the 40-yard dash and had an impressive 4.18 in the shuttle. He had a 34 inch vertical jump and a 9'10 in the broad jump. Graham has all the athletic capabilities that coaches look for in a wide receiver.
His speed also landed him on the Wolfpack's track team, but never let it interfere with football.
"My speed has translated to the track and I use that to run and excel in there," he said. "On the field, I can definitely stretch the field and make the defense have to play the full field instead of the short field."
He had an impressive senior season where he recorded 46 receptions for 757 yards and seven touchdowns. He was the team's leading wide receiver and a first team All-ACC selection as a specialist. He trailed only Torry Holt for the school's single season leader in all-purpose yards as a senior.
"I did both all four years in college," said Graham. "I finished my career as the career all-time leader in ACC for kickoff return yards. This past year I led the ACC in punt return yards. I have had success on both. There were years I was better here and there."
Graham himself was not sure how long he would have to wait to hear the phone ring, but he was not disappointed when it did.
"I spoke with some people and they suggested that this was the earliest I would go," he said. "You expect the worst in this situation, so getting the best that they told me is a pretty good thing. I am pretty excited about it.
"It's something I worked for my whole life. I'm just going to enjoy the opportunity I have now with the Buffalo Bills."