It isn't about the height or the weight or the way Brandon Graham looks in a uniform that made him the Eagles' primary target in the 2010 NFL draft. It was the way he played football, the way he produced, the ferocity he brought to the table that provided the Eagles with the incentive they needed to make a bold move, another stroke that has marked the Andy Reid draft era.
Yes, the Eagles traded from 24 in the first round to move to 13, and they gave up a lot: that 24th pick plus both of their third-round selections. They did it because they fell hard for Graham, a tremendous player at Michigan who then knocked the league's scouts on their socks throughout the off-season.
"We targeted him and we wanted him," said head coach Andy Reid well into the night on Thursday, long after the first round of the new-format draft had concluded. "He is able to get after offensive tackles. Whether it is the run game or the pass game, he brings it. He's not a real big guy -- I kind of compared him to Hugh Douglas or Trent Cole -- and he is very strong at the point. He's 270 pounds even though he is 6 feet, 1 1/2 inches talll in that area. He is a very physical player. When it comes to the passing game, he has been very productive getting to the quarterback. He has a relentless motor.
"The thing that I liked is that he really enjoys playing football. Some guys will say that, but I want to see that in your play and he showed that on every play. He is always coming after you. Some guys will pull off you as you're going down, but he's going to hit you. He makes plays behind the line of scrimmage and he did that better than anybody in the country in college. Add in all of those factors and that's why he was our guy."
Why did the Eagles select a defensive end when they had already traded for Darryl Tapp? Wasn't he enough, combined with Juqua Parker and Victor Abiamiri and Trent Cole. No way, said Reid. He watched as the Cowboys tore up the Eagles at the line of scrimmage and at the point of attack and knew that the front seven had to be made over, at least as much as it could be made over in this off-season.
The Eagles added Tapp. They welcome back Stewart Bradley at middle linebacker. They traded for Ernie Sims on Monday.
And they have, or at least are starting to gain definition, on a personality for the defense.
"Eagles fans," said Reid, "are going to like the players we have brought in. They are going to hit you. They are physical guys. Eagles fans like those kinds of players."
The draft is far from complete, of course. Jumping to conclusions at this point is foolish, any way you look at it. The national observers are raving about Graham -- ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted late on Thursday night that Graham will be a top performer right away ("Brandon Graham is the best pass rusher in this draft. My prediction: Graham will win defensive rookie of the year," and Sirius/XM's Adam Caplan said that Graham is "phenomenal," while ESPN's Sal Paolantonio thinks that Graham is a "lot like Dwight Freeney" and there were other opinions that weren't as flattering -- but it really doesn't matter what anybody says.
Graham has to come in and perform. He will get his first look on the left side as the Eagles gain depth and speed and, well, we'll see how it all works out.
"I'm not out to be the next Dwight Freeney," said Graham. "I'm out to be the first Brandon Graham."
Meanwhile, there is the rest of the draft to conduct. The Eagles still have seven picks at their disposal. They have the fifth pick in Round 2, the 37th selection overall. They have options, plenty of them. There is still talent on the board, and Reid said that he has already fielded plenty of phone calls about that pick. The board in the team's draft room, said Reid, still has a lot of talented players waiting for their names to be called.
Reid and general manager Howie Roseman will continue to work the draft, maybe move more picks, address the defense some more, hit a couple of spots on offense and see how the roster looks after that. It is far, far from over.
What's interesting is that the Eagles had such a secretive interest in Graham. It is amazing how quiet Reid and Co. keep their draft intentions, and then when they made their decisions, people around the country scratch their heads and wonder from where the move came.
Reid wants to build from the line of scrimmage out. He wants to be dominating up front. That makes sense at every level of the game. The Eagles just weren't good enough on defense last year. You saw how it chipped apart week by week. Sean McDermott's scheme kept things together, but in those losses to Dallas, the holes were obvious. Too, too obvious.
Hopefully, the Eagles have taken positive steps toward rebuilding that side of the football. They are younger, faster, and, says Reid, more physical. Graham plays a big part in the process.
What is next for the Eagles? They have six rounds to go, plenty of more moves to make and seven more picks to use. They're going to get to some of the areas you may see as a concern -- primarily on defense, I'm sure -- and they are working on that right now as you read this.
What they think is that they emerged with a big-time defensive end. And there is nothing more valuable on a defense than a premier edge rusher. The Eagles have one in Cole. They've been searching for that second option for years and years.
Maybe it's Tapp, whom the Eagles think will be very successful in this scheme. Parker is a quality, quality end, but he is now 31 years old. Abiamiri is a good player, but a "question there" said Reid as he recovers from knee surgery.
And Graham? He's the guy. He is the one the Eagles wanted and the one they went up and got in a very eventful first day of the 2010 NFL draft.