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Graham picked in fifth, Stone in sixth

The NFL dreams of Buffalo's Corey Graham and Lockport's Daren Stone moved a step closer to reality as both were drafted Sunday.

Graham, a Turner-Carroll graduate and University of New Hampshire cornerback, was selected in the fifth round by the Chicago Bears. Stone, who played at Lockport High and strong safety at the University of Maine, was a sixth-round selection by the Atlanta Falcons.

Graham is especially excited to join a team coming off a Super Bowl season.

"When I got the call it was a dream come true," Graham said by phone from his apartment in Durham, N.H. "Getting an opportunity to play at the next level and for a team like the Chicago Bears just makes it even more special."

Stone was projected as high as the third round, but wasn't complaining about his destination.

"I thought they would call my name a little earlier, but I'm glad they finally did," he said from his draft party in New York City. "Being drafted only happens to a few people, so I feel fortunate. I'm looking forward to going down there and making a difference."

Being late-round picks, Graham and Stone will be challenged to earn roster spots.

The top of the Bears' cornerback depth chart is set with Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Ricky Manning Jr. and Devin Hester, but Tillman and Vasher are entering the last year of their contracts.

What helps Graham's cause are his size (5-foot-11, 195 pounds), speed, excellent ball skills and experience playing the variety of pass coverages required in the Bears' defense.

"In our defense you have to play press, you have to play off, you have to be able to get up there as a cover-two corner and jam," Bears defensive coordinator Bob Babich told Chicago reporters. "In evaluating the tape on him, we thought that he showed all those things.

"The thing that we really like about Corey is that he's athletic and we think that he's going to do nothing but get better. He's been well-coached at his school, but I think competing against our guys, he's going to get much better and continue to grow. We think he has untapped talent."

Graham said his play on special teams will be key as well.

"There are only so many roster spots," said Graham, who starred as a return specialist in college. "The more you do the more value you have to the team."

Stone, the 203rd player selected, walks into a good situation with the Falcons. He was the only safety the team drafted and he has already been penciled in as the No. 2 strong safety behind Lawyer Milloy.

"He's a young talent that's big and fast," coach Bobby Petrino said of the 6-3, 218-pound Stone. "A guy that we think can come in and help us down the road at safety, provide depth at safety and have an opportunity to be one of our core special teams players. We like what we saw on video. He likes to run and hit. It's going to take a little process for the transition from that brand of [Division I-AA] football to the NFL. He certainly showed that he's determined to do that. We would see him more as a strong safety that drops down in the box, who could eventually take over for Lawyer."

"Lawyer has been in the league for a long time and there are a lot of things I can learn from him," Stone said.

Two former University at Buffalo players were signed as free agents. Tight end Chad Upshaw signed with the Carolina Panthers and linebacker Ramon Guzman signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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