Pats Finally Replace Coates

Ian Logue
April 20, 2002 at 6:30 pm ET

FOXBORO, MA — Looks like the Patriots finally plan on putting Ben Coates behind them.

New England drafted Colorado tight end Daniel Graham on Saturday, trading away their 32nd pick in the first round, along with their 96th selection in the third round and a seventh round pick (244th overall) to Washington in order to move up 11-spots and take Graham with the 21st overall selection.

Despite a roster that includes recent signees Cam Cleeland and Christian Fauria, not to mention last year’s draft choices Jabari Holloway and Arthur Love, then add in Jermaine Wiggins to the mix and it appeared that the Patriots problems weren’t at the tight end position.

Well, they were, but one wouldn’t assume that New England would take a tight end with their first round selection. Neither would one believe they would trade up in order to get one.

However the Patriots production last year found them ranked second to last at that position, and it appears that Belichick is tired of not getting production from his tight ends. Wiggins held his own during several games this season, but it wasn’t because of his ability, it was because the defense he was facing wasn’t paying attention to him.

But with Graham, things will likely be different. At 6-foot-3, 245-pounds he’s a big yet quick player with great speed and soft hands. He averaged just under five catches per game during his senior season, with his largest reception total coming in their final game against Oregon. He caught 10 passes for 89-yards and a touchdown in a 38-16 loss.

He finished the season with 61-catches for 842-yards and 7-touchdowns. Wiggins meanwhile finished the 2001 regular season with 14-catches for 133-yards and 4-touchdowns.

But one of the things that Graham is also known for is his run-blocking ability. Graham reportedly takes pride in his blocking ability, which is something that he’s worked hard on during his time in college.

He’s a natural athlete, and it’s something that runs in the family. His father Tom was a star linebacker for the Oregon Ducks in the late 60’s and early 70’s. His twin brother Josh was even more highly recruited than his brother, playing at the University of North Carolina. But a back injury put the fear of being crippled into his head until late last fall, and his future remains up in the air. Daniel meanwhile found the Patriots wanting him enough to trade up with the Washington Redskins to obtain his services. When the time comes, unfortunately Josh will have to try his luck as an undrafted free agent.

But for now, at least one of the Grahams has something to celebrate. If Daniel can finally give the Patriots a threat at tight end in the near future, there will be plenty of celebrating going on at the new CMGI field when the time comes.

The 23-year old also has a good role model in former Baltimore and Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe, who was his idol. Sharpe reportedly gave Graham tips about how to get off the line and get open several years ago, and now Patriot fans will get to see if he can achieve the same success in New England.

Belichick acknowledged his team had a problem on offense last week. He just took a major step on Saturday to do something about it.

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