Big Ten rankings: Brandon Graham, No. 1

The Big Ten postseason player rankings, based on past performance and future potential, end with ...

No. 1

Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan, Sr., 6-2, 263

Preseason rank: 10

Why he's here: These rankings try to blend performance at the college level with potential at the NFL level, and no Big Ten player satisfied those requirements quite like Graham in 2009. The Big Ten's co-MVP was one of the nation's most productive players at any position. He led the nation in tackles for loss with 26.5, ranked 14th with 10.5 sacks, forced two fumbles, blocked two kicks and had a fumble recovery. The senior returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and had nine games with multiple tackles for loss.

Some will undoubtedly knock this pick because Graham played on a subpar team with a very poor defense. But in many ways, his season was even more impressive because opposing offenses geared their protection schemes toward stopping him and still couldn't. Graham affected the game as much as one defender could, but he just didn't get much help from his teammates.

Any doubts about Graham's pro potential were squashed during the Senior Bowl, where he earned MVP honors after recording two sacks, three total tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He doesn't have incredible size but makes up with relentless effort and by simply making plays every time he's out on the field. The Big Ten boasted a ton of elite defenders this year, especially in the front seven, but Graham tops my list. I'd be surprised if he isn't selected in the first round in April's draft.

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