He is Karma incarnate. He is that perfect occurrence, when multiple probabilities converge on one point to create something special which would otherwise just be an ordinary thing. In this case, it is Ray Graham. He’s a home grown product from Elizabeth, NJ, not too far from the Meadowlands. He’s a Pittsburgh running back. The last franchise running back the Jets had was a Pittsburgh guy by the name of Curtis Martin. The Jets recently grabbed an offensive guru by the name of Marty Mornhinweg. The last place he coached was the Eagles, where he groomed an all-around, multi-purpose, pro bowl running back we know as LeSean McCoy. By coincidence, McCoy is the Pittsburgh running back that Ray Graham replaced, and also rushed for an Eagles record 17 touchdowns in 2011. Ray could be a 3rd string running back for a different team. For the Jets though, and in a west coast offense, he could be a star by the start of the 2014 season.
Ray Graham ran for 5.7 YPC in 2009, 6.2 YPC in 2010, 5.8 YPC in 2011, and 4.7 YPC in 2012. While doing that he also caught 36, 30, and 24 passes the past 3 seasons, increasing his catch total while increasing his carries every year. The thing I haven’t mentioned is that he tore up his ACL around November of 2011 while he was on his way to a career season. While getting back to form, he played less than 10 months later and put up over a 1,000 yards rushing and catching 36 passes the following year in 2012.
Just so you see what I’m talking about, this is Ray highlights pre-injury. As you can see, he’s got a well built frame, but has room to add some muscle, and get to a Curtis Martin-like 205-210 pounds. He also has great vision, and cutback ability. He’s not a burner, but he can find a hole and hit it. His hands are great, as his catch total can attest to, and to me he is a perfect fit for a west coast offense back. The Jets have do-it-all guys in McKnight and Powell, but who knows which of the three current backs will remain on the team in 2 years? Drafting another good young versatile back that fits the Jets system makes sense to me, and he can put a little pressure on the current group for playing time. He can also be a punt/kick returner/3rd down back/change of pace guy adding to the rotation.
Just so I don’t give you only highlights, this is just regular game footage of Ray from this season’s 2012 Pittsburgh-Notre Dame game. Unbeaten Notre Dame squeaked by Ray 29-26 on this day. Although he’s not quite back to form yet, when he played against top 25 teams like Notre Dame, he ran them over to the tune of 24 carries and 172 yards. This is the same Notre Dame defense that was ranked 7th in the nation in total team defense. It’s not a fluke either, as he typically raised his game against the better teams during his college career.
Due to the fact that he’s coming back from injury, he played for a not so great 6-7 Pittsburgh team, a lot of teams might under value him, not seeing how explosive he was before his injury. I’m counting on them forgetting the do it all guy that ran for 6 yards a carry. Given another full year to come back to form while learning the professional ropes, the Jets could possibly get a steal in the 4th or 5th round with Graham. His skills are a match with what I think the Jets are going to try to do this year offensively.
Also, due to the fact that guys like Ahmad Bradshaw , and probably one of Carolina’s running backs will be floating around as free agents, the Jets don’t need to jump early on a running back in the first 3 rounds to replace Shonn Greene if they decide not to retain him. They can just draft well, and pluck a free agent to either start, or share carries in a rotation. This team needs play makers, and Ray Graham fits that bill. If he can get back to form in his second year after his knee injury, and get off to a good start, he could possibly be pushing for starting time by late next season, and that is what you want from a mid-late round draft pick in a successful draft.
All in all, my favorite running back this year to replace Greene is Montee Ball of Wisconsin. But if I have to be honest with myself, the value for Ray Graham in the mid to late rounds is way better than a guy like Ball or Lacy in the 2nd. If you want to see his stats you can find them here
Come April, hope to see you in the green and white Ray.