2012 NFL Draft Preview: NC State

NC State’s T.J. Graham Is Hoping His Breakaway Speed Gets Him Chosen Earlier Than Expected On Draft Day

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.

Playmakers on both sides of the ball departed NC State this offseason, yet the departures followed long, productive careers with the Woflpack. Of course the team will miss every key contributor named below, but the team is as prepared to move on without them as the players are ready to get to the NFL.

Audie Cole, LB, Senior

Cole’s got great size to be an NFL linebacker — 6’4″, 246 pounds, he’s got an athletic, solid build with experience manning both the inside and outside linebacker positions. While his numbers have read spotty at the Combine, those who’ve seen him in game action are far more complimentary and see him as an instinctive talent. As a standout tackler, he was one of several anchors for a Woflpack defense that truly came on come the end of the 2011 season. If we’re going on smarts and his ability to learn an NFL system quickly, Cole could be drafted in the third or fourth round by a team employing a 3-4 scheme.

Terrell Manning, LB, Junior

Manning was a machine at NC State, ranking among the league’s best tacklers these past couple seasons. Instinctive, quick and incredibly aggressive, scouts are torn on whether those intangibles can make up for a highly undersized 6’3″, 224-pound frame. Should he add muscle weight in the lead-up to the Draft, it would likely please the naysayers, especially with his high scores already in terms of strength. As much as some see his shorter arms as a potential issue translating to the pro game, Manning’s never shown it to be an issue getting involved in pass- or run-defense. His mainstream evaluation is flawed however, so he may fall as far as the fifth round before being selected.

T.J. Graham, WR, Junior

When he as the ball, Graham can possess the type of frightening speed you usually only see on video games and Devin Hester highlight reels. With extensive experience returning punts and kicks, plus the usual route-running, Graham is evaluated as a highly dangerous ball-carrier and a potential game-changer with some work. His one big knock, his 6’0’/180 stature, brings some durability issues into question. However, players his size have succeeded before and there’s a good possibility Graham does as well. A potential late steal, he’s potentially getting selected in the sixth round of this year’s draft.

George Bryan, TE, Senior

At 6’5″ and 265 pounds, Bryan is a tank at tight end, and has the blocking chops to prove it. Not just one-dimensional, he’s proven throughout his career that he can straddle roles between role player and key passing target. At the same time, there are concerns that Bryan’s size can also be his downfall. Critics call out a lack of athleticism as a big concern, and express a desire to see him in a more pass-heavy role to reflect the shift of NFL offenses. All told, those dings likely knock him down to the sixth round in what’s a very weak draft for the tight end position.

J.R. Sweezy, DT, Senior

Is it okay for teams to look past injury problems to potentially select a 6’5″, 300-pound tackle with speed attached? If said team has the staff to put in the work, why not? Sweezy may be no sure thing, but when he played in college, he showed himself as a consistent — though not stellar — piece of the Wolfpack D. What scouts do like is his opening burst and overall speed (5.01 40 time is beyond awesome for his position). However, no one’s truly sure if that’s enough to get him selected. At worst, he’ll be part of spring workouts with an NFL team.

Markus Kuhn, DT, Senior

Another tackle with some great speed (he’s run a 4.89 40-time for scouts), Kuhn is a bit smaller than his counterpart above. Yet, his tendency to disrupt the middle of the field, and active roles in pass and run defense have bumped him up steadily on draft boards. Kuhn’s general intensity and overall strength also score him some huge points. Of course, he can’t be the featured defender in a scheme, and doesn’t necessarily get after the quarterback, but his skill set should allow the German native to contribute somewhere in the NFL this season, whether he’s drafted in the seventh round or not.

Previously: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami (FL)

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