His knowledge and confidence are building — and he only has scratched the surface of his potential.
"It seems like the game has slowed down to a crawl for me," said Graham, referring to his quick recognition of defensive schemes designed to thwart him.
No tight end has racked up more 20-yard-plus plays (seven) as Graham has emerged into a downfield target for quarterback Drew Brees, who said "the sky is the limit for him."
Graham's athleticism — including 4.53 speed and a 38½— inch vertical jump — make him a matchup nightmare for defenses, particularly in the red zone where his leaping ability gives him a decided advantage. Against linebackers, he is a load and nearly unstoppable in one-on-one coverage.
Two weeks ago, Saints coach Sean Payton ripped into him after Graham fouled up a route that resulted in a fourth-quarter interception in Houston. Instead of pouting, he rebounded and made three crucial fourth-quarter catches. Afterward, Brees called the young player "mentally tough, physically tough — he wants to be great."
Said Payton: "I am hard on him because we — all of us, himself included — think he is a special player."
Given his recent play, Graham is one of the few must-start TEs in the league.