Undrafted Free Agents Who Can Make Roster

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May 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles assistant offensive line coach Greg Austin during organized team activities at the NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

OFFENSIVE GUARD KARIM BURTON

From the moment I began researching Morgan State offensive tackle Karim Burton, I knew there was a story worth telling.    Karim Burton is a native Jamaican, whose accent reminds me of Bob Marley and happy times.   Unfortunately, Karim’s story has more than its share of tragedy.   Having lost his mother at the tender age of 13, Karim moved to the United States and has used the courage of his mother to find resolve in his own life.  Morgan State is a Baltimore university and  a member of the Mid Atlantic Conference (MAC), which has had more than it’s share of NFL players.   In fact, Barton is potentially the 25th graduate from Morgan State who could land a career in the NFL, including Hall of Fame players  Willie Lanier, Leroy Kelly, Rosey Brown, and Len Ford.  That’s a very impressive group of men.
Barton is a 6’2″ 313 pound offensive tackle who also projects as an NFL offensive guard.  He’ll be wearing number 73 as a Philadelphia Eagle, and will be easy to pick out of the crowd by his very noticeable Jamaican accent..  Small school prospects are not nearly as well documented heading into the draft as Division 1 schools, but the book on Barton is fairly impressive.   Soft spoken Barton is fierce on the NFL field – a blocker with a nasty attitude with great punch and blocking angles, good base and good field awareness in traffic. His weakness is a limited range and blocking while moving (pulling is a weakness).    Everything to this point is simply a story of a young man with a story of an NFL carrer, who persevered through a tremendous loss to find himself with a chance for NFL stardom.   But when I saw a you tube video “Karim Barton – A Jamaican’s Inspiring Story” , I found myself admiring this young man and hoping that his story gets told to this nation.

“Hard work pays off, man. You know, I’ve said to myself it’s possible.”

OFFENSIVE TACKLE KEVIN GRAF

The sole offensive tackle from the 2014 off-season is 6’6″ 303 pound offensive tackle from the University of Southern California Kevin Graf.   Graf does project as an NFL tackle, and has been on the radar of many Eagles fans for months.   The key to Graf, who will wear number 77 for the Eagles, is versatility.   His career at USC took time to develop:  red-shirted in his first year, and an understudy in his second, he did not take the field until his third year.   From that point in time, the right offensive tackle position was his home.  He stood out in the annual East-West shrine game, but had steady improvement throughout his college career.   His ties to the Eagles were obvious – he used to block for Eagles backup quarterback Matt Barkley.  He also trains in the offseason with Eagles backup linebacker Casey Matthews.  Finally, his Pac-12 connection placed him in direct competition with former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who had unsuccessfully recruited him to play for Oregon.

Graf is versatile in the NFL because he is happy to move into the interior or remain out at tackle to help the offensive line.   Right now, with a stable group of five offensive linemen starting, versatility in the reserves is crucial.   Graf started 39 games at right tackle for the USC trojans, and earned honors in 2013.  The most significant point about Graf is the insatiable quest for improvement.   He never settles, and is always seeking a better technique, and better regiment.   In his own words:

“Working with those guys kind of helped me grow up. I talked to them about what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. They said I was playing too tense, so I worked on that. They said my hands needed work. I did some pass sets and they said I was good there. It was good to talk with guys who play defense in the NFL to get some advice on what I need to do.”

When you have a professor of football as the Eagles do in head coach Chip Kelly, you simply need to surround him with eager pupils. Graf is very eager to learn.

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