football-player football-score football-helmet football-ball Accuracy Arm-Strength Balance Ball-Security Ball-Skills Big-Play-Ability Block-Deconstruction Competitive-Toughness Core-Functional-Strength Decision-Making Discipline Durability Effort-Motor Elusivness Explosiveness Football-IQ Footwork Functional-Athleticism Hand-Counters Hand-Power Hand-Technique Hands Lateral-Mobility Leadership Length Mechanics Mobility Pass-Coverage-Ability Pass-Protection Pass-Sets Passing-Down-Skills Pocket-Manipulation Poise Power-at-POA Progressions RAC-Ability Range Release-Package Release Route-Running Run-Defending Separation Special-Teams-Ability-1 Versatility Vision Zone-Coverage-Skills Anchor-Ability Contact-Balance Man-Coverage-Skills Tackling Lifted Logic Web Design in Kansas City clock location phone email play chevron-down chevron-left chevron-right chevron-up facebook tiktok checkbox checkbox-checked radio radio-selected instagram google plus pinterest twitter youtube send linkedin search arrow-circle bell left-arrow right-arrow tdn-mark filled-play-circle yellow-arrow-circle dark-arrow-circle star cloudy snowy rainy sunny plus minus triangle-down link close drag minus-circle plus-circle pencil premium trash lock simple-trash simple-pencil eye cart
NFL Draft

Thomas Graham Jr: 2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview Series

  • The Draft Network
  • March 21, 2021
  • Share

It’s rare for a starting corner from a prestigious program like Oregon to be flying under the radar heading into the NFL draft, but Thomas Graham Jr. is ready to break out during the pre-draft process and prove he belongs among this year’s top talents at the position.

Graham, a relentless and competitive defender who understands the game at a high level, spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about how he’s been preparing both physically and mentally for the draft, his experience at this year’s Senior Bowl, and what kind of impact he’ll make at the next level.

JM: How have you been preparing for this process both physically and mentally?

TG: I feel like I’m at the part of the process where I’m starting to see all of my hard work come together. I’ve been putting in so much work and it shows. I’ve already seen the positive changes to my body. This process has me in the best shape of my life. I’m bigger, faster, and stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m feeling better, and I look better. I’m at the point where everything I’ve been doing has given me the confidence needed to move forward. I’m ready for what’s next because I’ve been preparing for it.

I’m excited to see it all come together for my Pro Day on April 2. I’ve made so many positive changes. I sat out the 2020 season so I’ve been preparing for this since way back in September. That’s when the draft started for me. It’s been a long road, but the journey has been worth it. 

JM: Your Pro Day is on April 2. What are you most looking forward to about that?

TG: I’m looking forward to the testing. I personally believe that I’m going to do quite well in the position drills. Those drills allow me to put my best skills on display. I’m also looking forward to showing the world how athletic I am. It irks my nerves, I read all of the articles that say I’m not that athletic. They say I can’t do this or that. I feel like I am very athletic. I just never really got a true opportunity to showcase my athleticism.

JM: I love that. You played some wide receiver in high school. There are some obvious advantages there now that you’re playing cornerback on a full-time basis. How do you think playing receiver made you a better cornerback?

TG: It taught me how to get my hands on the football. That part of the game comes naturally to me because of my background as a receiver. I was working on my ball skills on a daily basis. It taught me how to attack the ball when it’s in the air. Playing defensive back now, I’m able to hone in on those same skills I learned in my younger days.

JM: Your ball skills jump out at me on tape. You get your hands on the ball so often. You had more than 30 pass break-ups to your name at Oregon. Besides your receiver background, what is it about your game that allows you to get your hands on the ball so often?

TG: I trust my technique. I’m always in position to make a play on the ball. I watch a lot of film as well. I understand what I’m gonna get on game day. I have a great understanding of how passing offenses like to operate. I always make sure that I’m well prepared for the challenge ahead. My preparation allows me to play one step ahead of everybody else. Whatever the offense is running, it’s never shocking to me. I already know it. I don’t think that’s the case for every cornerback, but it is for me.

JM: You recently competed at the Senior Bowl. It was your first time on the field for quite some time since you opted out of the 2020 season. I imagine you were very excited to put the pads back on. What was your experience like out there?

TG: I had so much fun out there. It was very competitive. Everybody was going at it down there. At the same time, it was a tremendous learning experience for me. I went out there and tried to soak everything up. I think cornerback is probably the position that has the biggest jump from college to the pros. Corners and EDGE rushers have the biggest transition nowadays. EDGE rushers have to be careful about putting their body weight on the quarterback. For corners, we have to watch our hands. We have to play with great body positioning at the next level. With me being a physical corner, that was one of the biggest challenges I wanted to attack at the Senior Bowl. I was learning to play press coverage without using so much of my hands.

JM: I love that you went down there with some clear goals in mind. It sounds like you really took advantage of the NFL coaching that you received in Mobile, Alabama. What do you think is the overall impression you left on the teams in attendance?

TG: I think teams left the Senior Bowl saying Thomas Graham still has it. Opting out didn’t hurt him at all. It didn’t make an impact on my on-field performance. I’m the same player and person that I was at Oregon. I’ve always played the game with a lot of emotion. I’m a high-energy player. I’ve always tried to be an Energizer bunny on the field (laughs). I take great pride in getting my teammates fired up for a game.

JM: I thought you shook the rust off rather quickly and had a great week of practice. Who were some of your favorite receivers to do battle out there?

TG: I spent most of my reps covering Demetric Felton from UCLA and Dez Fitzpatrick from Louisville. I thought both of those receivers were great players. They’re the ones I practiced against the most.

JM: We’ve talked a lot about your ball skills, but I’m curious as to what you feel some of your other strengths are. On the flip side, what are some of your weaknesses and how are you trying to improve in those areas?

TG: My current weaknesses are more about getting my body where I need it to be. That’s why I’ve been working so hard on strengthening every part of my body. I feel like I’ve always had a dominant lower half, so I’ve really focused on making my upper body stronger throughout this process. I think my biggest strength that people don’t see is my mind. I also have great lateral quickness. Those are some of the things that can be tough to identify while watching a game. You have to really dive into my tape to see those things. The camera angles don’t always do it justice. My lateral quickness is very good.

JM: You met with every team in person at the Senior Bowl. We’ve now reached the point of the draft where things are happening virtually. Have you had any virtual meetings as of late?

TG: I’ve already started that process. I’ve met with the Rams, Patriots, Packers, and Saints so far. Those are the teams I’ve met with through Zoom. A lot of teams got what they needed from me at the Senior Bowl. Even though we only met with each team for 15 minutes, they also passed out this questionnaire. We had to fill that out and answer some basic questions. Every team left with those forms completely filled out. Once it came time for the meetings, they were ready to ask us some more specific questions that maybe weren’t answered on the questionnaire. That way, teams were able to really maximize their 15 minutes.

JM: That’s consistent with what I’ve heard from every prospect at the Senior Bowl. If you could pick the brain of any NFL cornerback, who would you choose and why?

TG: My favorite cornerback in the NFL is Marcus Peters, but when it comes to sitting down and talking ball with somebody, I would say Stephon Gilmore. The only reason I wouldn’t say Peters is because we were coached by the same coach (laughs). I already know a lot of his tendencies, and I’m somewhat familiar with what advice he would offer me because we talk about him all the time. Gilmore is one of the best corners in the league. He’s consistently been a top-three cornerback for the last five years. I respect his ability to move inside and outside and be successful at both. That’s something that I want to do in the NFL.

I don’t want to be viewed as exclusively an inside guy or an outside guy. I want to be seen as a cornerback that can play anywhere I’m needed. I don’t even want people to say, “Oh, he’s a slot corner that can play outside.” I just want to be a cornerback, period. I don’t want it to have anything to do with our coverages or packages or anything like that. I just want to be respected as a cornerback that’s capable of anything.

JM: That’s a terrific answer and I’m going to end things on that note. I’ve really appreciated your time today, Thomas. In closing, what kind of impact is Thomas Graham Jr. going to make at the next level?

TG: I’m going to be a great teammate. I’m going to put my best foot forward and give it everything I have. I’m a versatile corner that can play all over the field. I’m trying to make an impact that sees me go down as one of the greatest corners to ever play the game. I want to be as dominant as I can be. I want to be in that conversation. That’s where my mindset is at.

Filed In

Related Articles

Written By

The Draft Network