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WNYers hope for draft call Graham, Stone top list of locals

Buffalo's Corey Graham and Lockport's Daren Stone grew up wondering how far their football talents would take them. They're about to find out.

Both could be selected during the NFL draft this weekend.

"I'm definitely anxious and excited," said Graham, a Turner-Carroll graduate and star cornerback at New Hampshire. "I can't wait to see exactly how things turn out."

"I don't know what's going to happen," added Stone, a Lockport High product and standout safety at Maine. "I'm going to enjoy it and hope for the best."

Mock drafts on several Web sites have projected Graham and Stone going between the fourth and seventh rounds. Other "experts" don't see them being drafted, but view them as high-priority free agents.

Whether Graham and Stone are drafted or not, most NFL scouts believe they have NFL talent.

"It's nice to be thought of in that way," Stone said. "It's up in the air right now. As long as I get the chance I'll be happy."

Added Graham: "All I ever wanted was an opportunity to play at the next level. It doesn't matter how I get there as long as I get a chance."

Stone gained notice at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last February by recording the longest broad jump (11 feet) and fifth-fastest 60-yard shuttle run (11.54 seconds) among all defensive backs. At his pro day, he recorded a 39 1/2 -inch
vertical leap and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds. That was considerably faster than his 4.58-second time at the combine.

The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Stone started three years at Maine, including one year at cornerback. He had 173 career tackles (16.5 for losses) and 10 interceptions.

"His physical size, height-weight-speed, is really impressive," said Doug Majeski, the Buffalo Bills' coordinator of college scouting. "There are great physical skills. Sometimes his play doesn't measure completely up to that. But when he gets in this league people are going to work with him to make him a little better reactive versus the pass. But his run support and his tackling, his ability to run with receivers, is really good."

Coming off a broken ankle that ended his season last October, Graham was clocked at 4.52 seconds in the 40 during New Hampshire's pro day. But he ran in the 4.3s last summer and brings more to the table than just speed.

The 5-11 7/8 and 195-pound Graham got his hands on 41 career passes (12 interceptions and 29 passes broken up) and had 302 total tackles as a four-year starter.

"He's a real competitive player," said Bills scout Marc Ross. "You might have heard about their receiver David Ball [who broke Jerry Rice's all-time NCAA receptions record]. Graham locked him up all the time in practice. He's a good athlete for that level. The coaches love him down there. I think he's got a chance."

Helping Graham's chance is his prowess as a return specialist, posting career averages of 27.9 yards on kickoffs and 10.6 yards on punts. He returned two kickoffs, one punt and an interception for touchdowns, and that doesn't include a 99-yard kick return in a 2004 Division I-AA playoff win over Georgia Southern.

Graham and Stone aren't the only local players hoping to get a call from an NFL team this weekend.

University at Buffalo linebacker Ramon Guzman and tight end Chad Upshaw have attracted interest. The 6-2, 233-pound Guzman visited Indianapolis, Atlanta and the New York Giants. The 6-4 1/2 , 249-pound Upshaw got to showcase his skills before all 32 teams at the combine. Both are expected to be signed as free agents.

Another local prospect is Buffalo's Andre Coleman, a 6-4, 290-pound defensive end from the University of Albany.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com1

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