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How Jaeden Graham snatched a roster spot ( Saubert cut)


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How Jaeden Graham snatched a roster spot

Maybe the best tight end whose name is J. Graham the NFL has ever seen

By Adnan Ikic@SayWhichWay  Aug 31, 2019, 10:00am EDT

Going into Training Camp and the preseason, we had a number of roster battles we were eager to see — which, if any, of the undrafted wide receivers would win the team’s final WR spot? Who would win the return job between Kenjon Barner and Marcus Green? Who would win the left guard battle between Jamon Brown and James Carpenter? And a few more very intriguing ones I didn’t list.

I did not expect the tight end position to be one of intrigue this summer. Behind Austin Hooper, new free agent addition Luke StockerLogan Paulsen, who was solid in his role with the team in 2018, and 2017 fifth-round pick Eric Saubert had the position by the throat.

Going into camp, if there was going to be a battle at that position it would likely be between Saubert and Paulsen; and that’s if the team decided that they didn’t want to carry four tight ends again. Paulsen’s skill set is redundant to Stocker’s, and while Saubert came into the league with a high ceiling because of his physical tools and athleticism, he hadn’t progressed very much over the past two years.

Jaeden Graham entered camp as a long-shot to make the roster, because of the incumbents at his position. Hooper made the Pro Bowl last season, and Stocker had just signed a two-year contract which would incite a $1.5 million dead cap hit if cut — their spots on the roster were secure.

To be one of the 53 men come Week 1, Graham had to beat out both Saubert and Paulsen. At any moment the Falcons could choose to carry three TEs, so beating out just one of the incumbents wasn’t enough.

Another wrinkle in this challenge for Graham is the fact that Brian Hill was arguably the team’s most impressive player in Training Camp, meaning that the Falcons would likely carry at least four running backs this season. That decreased the possibility of there being four tight ends on the roster again in 2019, making things tougher for the Yale alum.Make no mistake about it, Graham didn’t just make his way to Flowery Branch out of nowhere — he had a strong preseason with the team as an undrafted rookie free agent last year, and showcased himself enough to earn a spot on Atlanta’s Practice Squad.

The Yale graduate built on his good work last summer, and he showed out this year. The numbers won’t pop off the page, but Graham did everything asked of him in his role these past few weeks. He was a valuable safety net over the middle of the field for his QBs, an efficient blocker, showcased great hands, displayed good athleticism, and even proved versatile enough to play some fullback when Ricky Ortiz got hurt.

After a strong Training Camp, Graham went into the Hall of Fame game and caught two of his three targets for 22 yards, including a 16-yard reception. In Week 1 of preseason, he caught both of his targets for 14 yards. The bigger story in that game, however, was Saubert putting on a forgettable performance to the tune of one reception for 7 yards and a very ugly dropped pass which hit him in the chest.

The team had decided that they had seen enough forgettable performances out of Saubert since drafting him and cut their losses by trading him to the Patriots for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. The door to the roster opened ever so slightly for Graham, but he had to capitalized on the circumstances.

Week 2’s game against the New York Jets was where Graham really starting breaking down the door for that roster spot. He led both teams in receiving with 55 yards, hauling in four of his five targets in the process. He also put a special highlight on film, hurdling over a Jets defender in the midst of making a 30-yard reception:

The Saubert trade combined with this performance is what really got people paying attention to Graham’s growing likelihood of finding himself on the 53-man roster come the regular season.

The Yale man got a look with the first team offense in Week 3 against the Washington Redskins, but left the game with an injury which could have jeopardized his chances of making the team if it was serious enough. For Graham to have put in all of that good work just to have the rug pulled out from under him due to injury would have been cruel. 

Luckily, the ailment wasn’t serious enough to even sideline him for the final preseason game, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he had another three receptions for 35 yards.

At this point, Graham had done himself every favor in trying to secure a spot on the team. He had youth and ceiling on his side over the 32-year-old Paulsen, but it was up to the coaching staff and front office to go with that youth over the steady production and specialized blocking Paulsen provided.

On Friday, the executives made that very decision, as it was announced that the Falcons were parting ways with Logan Paulsen. Graham had secured his spot on the 53-man roster as the third string tight end.

Every year, over 1,100 players fail to make an NFL roster after Training Camp and preseason. 320 of those players sign Practice Squad contracts to keep the dream alive, and a handful end up getting signed to a separate team’s 53-man roster.

A number of those other players will get a Training Camp invite the next year. However, they’ll be a year older, and competing against an influx of new undrafted free agents following their own NFL dreams. Their chances of making a roster will thus be diminished.

Thousands of football players have gone through the summer process only to fall short of their NFL dreams. 

Jaeden Graham went through the process as an undrafted free agent, last year. He showcased himself enough to be one of the select 320 to wind up on a Practice Squad, giving himself a head start for this year over the 800 players who were cut and never found an NFL home afterward.

Graham then improved his game, went through the process again, and wrestled a roster spot away from the two favorites who were ahead of him on the July depth chart.

Jaeden Graham is one of the handful of August success stories we get every year, in the NFL — a young man successfully fighting for and achieving his dream of becoming a professional football player in the world’s best league — and it’s a breath of fresh air whenever it happens.

 

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This is a fantastic story for a long shot out of Yale. Graham earned it too, he  did what was asked from him and picked up the mental part of the game quick enough in his second camp to stick on our final roster.

Conversely, despite elite athleticism and promise, Saubert was never able to get his head straight and confidence to the point he could just let his talent take over and was cut by Patriots, Saubert had every chance to prove himself this camp and preseason with both Falcons and Patriots this year, but just couldn’t put it all together.

I’m thrilled to have a TE on the roster behind Hooper that can make plays in the passing game. 

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6 minutes ago, Lowndesfalc said:

No draft pick for Saubert. :(

Yep, he had every chance to prove himself in New England as well as he had here this year. Just couldn’t put it all together.

All I can say is thank God Graham came out of absolutely nowhere. I mean, we have nothing behind Hooper as far as a receiving TE except Graham now.

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14 minutes ago, gazoo said:

Yep, he had every chance to prove himself in New England as well as he had here this year. Just couldn’t put it all together.

All I can say is thank God Graham came out of absolutely nowhere. I mean, we have nothing behind Hooper as far as a receiving TE except Graham now.

Luke Stocker isn't an athletic freak or anything, the polar opposite actually, but he's a good receiver. He's just never been used much as a receiver because he's such a good blocker and most tight ends that are exceptional blockers unfortunately for them don't ever get much of a chance to catch passes. But when the ball comes his way he almost always catches it.

That being said, it's nice to have Graham who is a real threat in the passing game.

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19 minutes ago, Lowndesfalc said:

He should be really good in two tight end sets with everyone going to roll coverage to Hoop. 

I never thought Graham had a chance, so I paid little attention to him until preseason games started and he started to flash. He played exceptional against Jets.

Has anyone paid any attention to his blocking?  I am very curious to see what Graham’s upside is. I think he ran a 4.73 40, a little above average  33” vertical and a strong 122” broad jump.his hands seem to be good.

 I think my questions are more about his strength. Don’t get me wrong, he already looks good, I’m thinking upside.  Anyone been watching him blocking, boxing defenders out or shedding tacklers? I saw him broad jump a defender which was hilarious.

 

 

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6 minutes ago, Falconsfan567 said:

Luke Stocker isn't an athletic freak or anything, the polar opposite actually, but he's a good receiver.

He was dependable as far as catching short passes, but I don’t recall him being a downfield threat, or run after the catch threat  in his career was he?  I think his first two years in NFL he caught a lot of passes but after that was used more as a blocker. 

I think Graham has a shot at being a downfield threat. That 40 yard reception and jumping over defender I found impressive. If he’s strong enough, he uses those skills to break a tackle on a short pass he can be dangerous. 

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14 minutes ago, Falconsfan567 said:

Gazoo, don't you owe Sark an apology since it's clear that he wasn't the reason Eric Saubert has never done squat in the NFL? You were pretty adamant that the reason Eric Saubert never done anything in the NFL was because Sark didn't know how to use him and that's why Sark got fired.

Well, the fact the Patriots and Falcons gave him a fair chance this preseason and he didn’t step up and take advantage of it, sure, that argument can be made now that the reason Sark didn’t use him in regular season last year was because he didn’t have confidence it him. But I wasn’t harsh on Sark for that, I said this offseason I wasn’t sure yet why Saubert wasn’t used on offense last year and that we would know one way or another this camp.

But don’t ignore Ryan, TD and DQ praising Saubert last year in camp and preseason for many athletic difficult catches in camp, only to have him not used on offense beginning of season.  Saubert actually regressed this camp, which leads me to believe his confidence may have been an issue.

Oh well, as promising an athlete Saubert was, despite lighting it up in passing game in college, he just couldn’t handle the transition to the NFL where his assignments became much more complicated than just lining up wide in a spread offense, running deep routes and catching passes.  

 

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9 minutes ago, gazoo said:

He was dependable as far as catching short passes, but I don’t recall him being a downfield threat, or run after the catch threat  in his career was he?  I think his first two years in NFL he caught a lot of passes but after that was used more as a blocker. 

I think Graham has a shot at being a downfield threat. That 40 yard reception and jumping over defender I found impressive. If he’s strong enough, he uses those skills to break a tackle on a short pass he can be dangerous. 

That is why I said he was the polar opposite of an athletic freak. It's because he's not a downfield threat or anything. Just that when the ball comes his way he'll catch it. But he's not making any big plays in the passing game unless it's Levine Toilolo style and the defense forgets he's on the field.

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20 minutes ago, gazoo said:

I never thought Graham had a chance, so I paid little attention to him until preseason games started and he started to flash. He played exceptional against Jets.

Has anyone paid any attention to his blocking?  I am very curious to see what Graham’s upside is. I think he ran a 4.73 40, a little above average  33” vertical and a strong 122” broad jump.his hands seem to be good.

 I think my questions are more about his strength. Don’t get me wrong, he already looks good, I’m thinking upside.  Anyone been watching him blocking, boxing defenders out or shedding tacklers? I saw him broad jump a defender which was hilarious.

 

 

He can block. Go watch Brooks James' 52 yarder on Thursday. He threw two blocks on that play.

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17 minutes ago, Falconsfan567 said:

That is why I said he was the polar opposite of an athletic freak. It's because he's not a downfield threat or anything. Just that when the ball comes his way he'll catch it. But he's not making any big plays in the passing game unless it's Levine Toilolo style and the defense forgets he's on the field.

Oops, I was mixing Stocker up from Paulson.

Yes, your point about Stocker being a capable receiving TE is true, way better than Paulson. Stocker can still hurt a defense in receiving game so my point we had “nothing” behind Hooper is incorrect. Sure, not deep threat or big run after the catch guy, but Stocker can definitely  still hurt a defense in passing game.

For some reason I forgot about him being on roster when I was responding, but he will be playing a big role in regular season.

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21 minutes ago, TD_Lover said:

Eh we good. I think Graham just might be what you wanted Saubert to be. And I'm excited about that.

Much respect brother, you had every right to unload with both guns. 

I do agree that Graham looks like he can be that guy who once in a while pierces a defense with a seam catch that goes 40+ yards downfield forcing defenses to keep an eye on him all other plays. 

I’d we get 200 yards and a few TDs out of him he will have filled that role. Moreover, he provides depth options of Hoop goes down a game or two.

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