June 24, 2024

Time and again, Michigan’s defensive lineman Mason Graham has proven to be a formidable challenge for opposing blockers throughout the 2023 season. Last year, Graham’s relentless efforts earned him a second-team All-American selection, and analysts are already praising his abilities ahead of his junior year. Pro Football Focus has ranked Graham as the top interior defensive lineman in the nation, with PFF’s Max Chadwick expressing strong confidence in his combination of strength and skill.

“Graham showcased excellence in his debut year at Ann Arbor, leading all FBS true freshmen interior defensive linemen with an impressive 80.3 PFF grade,” Chadwick noted. “He elevated his performance to new heights in his sophomore season. According to PFF’s wins above average metric, he ranked as the fourth-most valuable defensive tackle in the country. Additionally, he ranked sixth in the same group with a 15.9% pass-rush win rate. Graham stands out as one of just two interior defensive linemen in the nation to achieve top-10 grades in both pass rushing and run defending. The other player to achieve this feat was Texas’ T’Vondre Sweat.”

The emerging junior possesses an unstoppable combination of relentless energy and remarkable agility, rendering him nearly impossible to block. Even when faced with a direct challenge from an offensive lineman, his considerable power at 6-foot-3, 318 pounds allows him to shed the block swiftly and locate the ball carrier. Graham is a highly skilled defensive tackle who poses a significant threat to Big Ten offenses and is poised to be a top pick in the 2025 NFL Draft. If he were eligible for the 2024 Draft, he would likely be the first defensive tackle chosen.

Despite often rotating in and out of games alongside numerous other pass rushers and run stoppers last season, Graham gained valuable experience in a variety of in-game situations. As a result, he is expected to assume a larger role in the 2024 season. Even while sharing playing time, Graham managed to accumulate impressive statistics during the Wolverines’ undefeated National Championship campaign, including 36 tackles, seven and a half tackles for loss, three sacks, three hurries, one pass deflection, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.

Following an outstanding season, Graham left a clear demonstration of why he is considered the nation’s premier returning defensive tackle. In a notable performance against Minnesota last year, Graham recorded six tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack during Michigan’s 52-10 victory over the Golden Gophers. One standout moment exemplified his sheer strength and determination. After breaking free from his initial blocker, Graham managed to split a late double team and delivered a punishing sack on Minnesota in the second half of the game.

Later in the season, Graham showcased his prowess once again, making a critical play against Alabama during overtime of the College Football Playoffs semi-finals. In this pivotal moment, with the fate of the season on the line, Graham explosively burst off the line of scrimmage and tackled the Crimson Tide ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.

With a total of 18 Wolverines invited to the NFL Combine, Michigan faces the challenge of replenishing a significant amount of talent on both offense and defense. However, it is anticipated that Graham will serve as the cornerstone of what was the nation’s top-ranked defensive unit just a year ago.

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