Nothing guaranteed in draft for former Pitt star Graham


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By Sam Werner

Last year marked the first time since 1999 that Pitt was shut out of the NFL draft, and Panthers running back Ray Graham is hoping that doesn't turn into a trend this weekend.

Graham is the only Pitt player likely to hear his name called this weekend, but probably will have to sweat it out until the third day of the draft before he learns his destination.

Most scouting services have Graham listed as a fifth- to seventh-round pick, and there's a chance he could fall out of the draft entirely.

"I don't care where I go," Graham said at Pitt's pro day last month. "Wherever I go, I'm going to help the team and do what I've got to do.

"My job is just to stay in shape and prepare for whatever the next level has in store for me."

ESPN lists Graham as the 29th-best running back available, and CBS has him as the 22nd. The NFL's official scouting rankings are slightly higher, pegging Graham as the 12th-best running back available.

Graham hurt his draft stock in February at the NFL combine when he took 4.8 seconds to run the 40-yard dash, fifth-worst among running backs at the combine.

He made up for that March 6 at Pitt's pro day when he posted a time between 4.58 and 4.62 seconds, depending on the scout.

Graham admitted that while the 40-yard dash time wasn't the end-all, be-all for him, teams did question him about it.

"Nobody said, 'Never mind the 40' or anything like that," Graham said. "Everybody just said, 'Get a better time at pro day.' Everybody kept preaching, 'Just keep your head up and keep moving forward.' "

Another concern could be Graham's recovery from an ACL injury that cut short his 2011 season. He bounced back to play in 12 games last season, rushing for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns and ending his career as Pitt's second all-time leading rusher.

Graham missed Pitt's BBVA Compass Bowl loss with a hamstring injury he said was still affecting him as of last month.

With the Steelers potentially looking for a running back in the later rounds, there's the possibility Graham could just move to the other side of the building that Pitt and the Steelers share on the South Side.

"Not everybody gets to be next to an NFL team," Graham said of his college experience. "You just get to ask questions whenever you see them, meet people and just get a feel for certain things. I thought that was good."

Graham likely will be the only Pitt player selected next weekend, but others will get the chance to sign free-agent contracts after the draft. Eleven players worked out at Pitt's pro day in front of representatives of 20 NFL teams.

Offensive linemen Ryan Turnley and Chris Jacobson likely will find an NFL home, at least for training camp, as will tight end Mike Shanahan as he tries to transition from wide receiver.

For now, though, all these players can do is wait.

"It's just dreaming, hoping, praying that everything goes well," Jacobson said.

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.

Last year marked the first time since 1999 that Pitt was shut out of the NFL draft, and Panthers running back Ray Graham is hoping that doesn't turn into a trend next weekend.

Graham is the only Pitt player likely to hear his name called next weekend, but probably will have to sweat it out until the third day of the draft before he learns his destination.

Most scouting services have Graham listed as a fifth- to seventh-round pick, and there's a chance he could fall out of the draft entirely.

"I don't care where I go," Graham said at Pitt's pro day last month. "Wherever I go, I'm going to help the team and do what I've got to do.

"My job is just to stay in shape and prepare for whatever the next level has in store for me."

ESPN lists Graham as the 29th-best running back available, and CBS has him as the 22nd. The NFL's official scouting rankings are slightly higher, pegging Graham as the 12th-best running back available.

Graham hurt his draft stock in February at the NFL combine when he took 4.8 seconds to run the 40-yard dash, fifth worst among running backs at the combine.

He made up for that March 6 at Pitt's pro day when he posted a time between 4.58 and 4.62 seconds, depending on the scout.

Graham admitted that while the 40-yard dash time wasn't the end-all, be-all for him, teams did question him about it.

"Nobody said, 'Never mind the 40' or anything like that," Graham said. "Everybody just said, 'Get a better time at pro day.' Everybody kept preaching, 'Just keep your head up and keep moving forward.' "

Another concern could be Graham's recovery from an ACL injury that cut short his 2011 season. He bounced back to play in 12 games last season, rushing for 1,042 yards and 11 touchdowns and ending his career as Pitt's second all-time leading rusher.

Graham missed Pitt's BBVA Compass Bowl loss with a hamstring injury he said was still affecting him as of last month.

With the Steelers potentially looking for a running back in the later rounds, there's the possibility Graham could just move to the other side of the building that Pitt and the Steelers share on the South Side.

"Not everybody gets to be next to an NFL team," Graham said of his college experience. "You just get to ask questions whenever you see them, meet people and just get a feel for certain things. I thought that was good."

Graham likely will be the only Pitt player selected next weekend, but others will get the chance to sign free-agent contracts after the draft. Eleven players worked out at Pitt's pro day in front of representatives of 20 NFL teams.

Offensive linemen Ryan Turnley and Chris Jacobson likely will find an NFL home, at least for training camp, as will tight end Mike Shanahan as he tries to transition from wide receiver.

For now, though, all these players can do is wait.

"It's just dreaming, hoping, praying that everything goes well," Jacobson said.

mobilehome - pittsports

Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG. First Published April 20, 2013 4:00 AM


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