CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 27: T.J. Graham #6 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown against the Louisville Cardinals during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 27, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Buffalo Bills raised some eyebrows in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft when they selected little-discussed North Carolina State wide receiver T.J. Graham - and traded up to do so. The reason they did so? The head coach wanted vertical speed.
"Chan said from day one he'd like to have a guy with really good vertical speed outside," Bills GM Buddy Nix explained to WGR 550 on Monday. "So we got that."
Chan Gailey must have been fervent in his desire for vertical speed, because the team's two receiver acquisitions this off-season - Graham and street free agent David Clowney - are known almost exclusively for their speed. It's an asset that Buffalo's receiving corps lost entirely when Lee Evans was traded and Marcus Easley landed on IR a year ago. It affected the way opposing defenses played Buffalo's passing attack each and every week.
Now, with Graham, Clowney and a hopefully healthy Easley, the Bills have vertical speed at receiver again - even if they sacrificed prototypical size with the two new adds to do it (both Clowney and Graham are at least 11 pounds lighter than Buffalo's lightest receiver from a year ago, Naaman Roosevelt). For Nix, however, Graham's size is not a concern.
"He's not a small guy that's a darter - I mean, he's got great speed, but he's big enough to not get knocked off his routes easily," Nix said.