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December 1, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back Ray Graham (1) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NFL Draft: Ray Graham, other Pitt Panthers sign free agent deals after going undrafted

For the second consecutive year, the NFL Draft came and went without a Pitt Panthers player hearing his name called.

Running back Ray Graham had the best chance of being drafted, but he had to sit by and wait as running back after running back went off the board during the third day of the draft, but never heard his name called.

December 1, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers running back Ray Graham (1) reacts after he scored a touchdown against the South Florida Bulls during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Pittsburgh Panthers defeated the South Florida Bulls 27-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not the worst thing though for Graham and other former Panthers that has aspirations of playing in the NFL.

Sometimes going undrafted benefits the player as he gets to choose his own opportunity where there could be a better chance of making a roster.

That’s exactly what Graham did, when he signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent.

Graham, who rushed for 958 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012 and finished his Pitt career second all-time with 3,271 rushing yards, seemed well on his way to being a high-round choice in 2011 but his torn ACL in combined with a down year left Graham’s draft stock to plummet.

He also had a poor showing at the NFL Combine, only running a 4.8 40-yard dash time which ranked him near the bottom of 33 participating running backs.

But that’s all history as Graham has a chance to make the Texans roster.

The Texans have Arian Foster (also went undrafted) as well as younger back, Ben Tate on the roster. But their third back, Justin Forsett, signed with Jacksonville this offseason, so there could be a bit of an opening there for a guy like Graham.

It also helps that Houston didn’t draft any other backs and to this point of free agency haven’t signed any either.

With Graham’s ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, he could have a legitimate shot to stick with the Texans as a third-down back.

Graham isn’t the only former Pitt player to latch on with an NFL team.

Pitt wide receiver Mike Shanahan will move to tight end with the New York Jets. Hopewell native, center Ryan Turnley will try and make the Buffalo Bills roster, while tight end Hubie Graham will be trying to do the same with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

If Graham makes the team, he would be reunited with former Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt, who is the special teams coach there.

Those four are the only ones to land with a team at the moment, but others could in the next couple of days.

There’s a chance for these guys.

Just keep in mind that former Panthers’ fullback Henry Hynoski went undrafted and won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 2011, so not being drafted isn’t the end of the world for any of the Pitt players looking to continue their playing careers.

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Tags: 2013 NFL Draft Pittsburgh Panthers Football Ray Graham

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