Five. Eleven. Nine. Sixteen. Ten. Two. Six and Ten. Followed by Twenty-Two, Two, One, One, Two, Twenty, Four and Six. Followed by Three and Zero.

Fine readers of the Going For 2 fanbase my name is @TheBLeagueSays and I am 100% all about that bass, ‘bout that bass, no treble! And thank you for the awesome feedback and conversations following last weeks Pros and Cons on Russell Wilson – it seems to have struck a chord with the audience, I think common sense will prevail and the doubts about Wilson (or his situation) will quickly be put aside after Week One. Once again please remember that the articles I bring to you leading up to your traditional NFL Fantasy Draft Season will be based on the Pros and Cons of players the Fantasy Football Community has split ideas on.

So before we get started – Thank you, and enjoy!

No, they are not my Social Security Numbers listed above (I don’t think). But to start an article off with a stack of meaningless numbers is odd at best. So let me give some context. The first lot of numbers? That right there is the number of TDS that this weeks focus player has scored each season over the past 8 years. 

The second grouping of numbers? That is the end of season finish that this weeks focus has had in PPR for his position over the past 8 years.

The last group of numbers, however? That’s the number of QBs he has played with that have won Super Bowls, and the amount that he has not.

I am going to play the role of Captain Obvious right now; Jimmy Graham has had a hell of a career. His Rookie season was what you would expect from a raw athlete. We know his exposure to Football was minimal at a College level and we know that he, along with Rob Gronkowski changed the landscape on how you could and do use Tight Ends since they debuted. 

Let me give you a terrible example of perception I had of both Graham and Gronkowski during a draft I had once: I was playing in a Tight End Premium league and went Gronkowski/Graham at the end of the Round 1-2 turn. You can call it arrogance if you like. But at a time when there was maybe Greg Olsen and a kid called Travis Kelce coming through I thought I would wipe out an entire position from the start. That backfired heavily as Graham just moved to Seattle and didn’t have his best season – turns out tearing a tendon in your knee is pretty bad for your production. I think Gronkowski bailed me out but that’s beside the point. The point is I thought during a draft if I had both of them I would win my league. Stupid really, in hindsight. But at the time I thought it was a sound strategy.

And aside from his Rookie year, he only really struggled when he was coming back from that devastating injury (suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in the 2015 season). But in the end, in 2018 we see Free Agent Tight End Jimmy Graham take his talents to South B….. Wisconsin. Yep, Jimmy Graham gave up the rainy capital of Washington for Green Bay, the part of the country where sunshine and happiness tends to avoid. But why Green Bay? 

Well, I’ll tell you why! But first…

Do You Know:

  • That Jimmy Graham‘s currently being drafted as the TE4 in PPR and Standard Scoring before even playing a snap with his new QB? Well, then you’d be wrong! In 2012 Jimmy Graham and Aaron Rodgers represented the NFC at the Pro Bowl together – who also had current Green Bay Head Coach Mike McCarthy at the helm! But not about the Ranking though that…that’s still true! The playing alongside Rodgers part was what I was referencing…
  • That he also scored a 2 Yard TD in that game too….! From his QB in New Orleans at the time Drew Brees. But Mike McCarthy called the play and that means something, right?
  • That Graham is one of only two Tight Ends that has multiple seasons with at least 1,000 Yards and more than 10 TDS. Graham was also the first Tight End in NFL history to be named NFC Offensive Player of the Month (September 2013) after catching 27 passes for 458 yards and six TDS.

Now, I normally try to find something witty to throw in here to lighten the mood and disarm the reader before the nitty-gritty. But I don’t have anything funny to tell you this week. But did you know that the NFL did implement a ban on using the goalposts in celebrations in the offseason after he did his trademark ‘TD Dunk’ after he scored and bent the posts mid-game? I mean it would be funny if the NFL allowed it to be. Now it’s just sad…

 Well then, penguins and polar bears what are…

The Pros – 

He’s a big boy…

We know his size. We know how incredible he is in the red zone. Tell me if this sounds familiar: ‘The loss of Jimmy Graham will likely be seen in the red zone where he was the most targeted player (26) in all of Football in 2017, in which he converted for an impressive 10TDS’. Wanna know who said that? Yeah, I did – last week in my Russell Wilson article. Graham is a huge loss to Seattle and as I said then, 10 TDS are easier to find than replace. We assume someone in Seattle can step up and fill that hole but really? Who? And remember when he left New Orleans and they tried to fill that role with Coby Fleener? Remember that? Yeah, that didn’t work either. The reality for Seattle and New Orleans was that Graham (as much as Wilson and Brees were brilliant) in those scenarios created opportunities to strike when he was the centerpiece. So if you can find another QB that has the nous for creating and executing at the highest level then he has probably landed in the right town. There aren’t many QBs that are as brilliant as Aaron…

Rodgers. Aaron Rodgers

So if you lose Jordy Nelson (who has been the ‘red zone guy’ for Rodgers) in most of his time in Green Bay why not replace him with a bigger red zone threat like Jimmy Graham? This move for Graham, Rodgers, McCarthy and Green Bay is a great fit. How great do you ask? Rodgers hit a 79% success rate in red zone conversion in 2017 – and while I get Rodgers missed a fair amount of the season due to injury, in 2016, 67% of plays in the red zone came through the air too. He also possesses an extremely high red zone TD-to-INT ratio of 221:9. Aaron Rodgers, put simply is magic when it comes to making plays work and hitting paydirt.

Now what is interesting is that the Packers have also re-hired former Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin, and in his last season in Green Bay (2011), Jermichael Finlay went nuts (by Green Bays standards) with 92-55-767yds-8TDS. Since then it’s fair to say that Philbin hasn’t had the talent (whilst in Miami), except for maybe Jack Doyle who he helped as an Assistant Coach in Indianapolis the past 2 seasons.

Now the ‘in thing’ to do (as the cool kids would say, not me though – I am neither cool or young) is to hate on the Packers for not using the Tight End position well enough (and you bet ‘The Cons’ will touch on this) but if we are elevating Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook or Lance Kendricks to Jimmy Graham’s level – or even worse – lowering Graham into that group instead then we need to ask better questions. Like, have any of the players mentioned above ever had… 

The Yards and/or TDS…

That Jimmy Graham has had? That’s a resounding ‘NO’ that you can hear. Let’s look at their career ceilings:

Bennett – Best year: Chicago in 2014 (128-90-916yds-6TDS-70.3% Catch Rate ). Joined Green Bay in 2017, ‘retired’ 7 games into the season.

Cook – Best year: 2011 in Tennessee (81-49-759-3TDS-60.5% Catch Rate). Joined Green Bay in 2016, played 10 games only.

Kendricks – Best year: St Louis in 2012 (64-42-519-4TDS-65.6% Catch Rate). Joined Green Bay 2017, played all 16 games but did nothing (literally nothing) in five of them.

So before we get into the ‘Tight Ends’ in Green Bay do poorly in Fantasy Football I will stop you right there and flat out agree with you. They have done poorly. But these TE’s were poor long before they even got to Green Bay, so instead of a performance issue, it was more likely scouting failures on behalf of the recruitment department. Only once did any of those players above have ever hit above 900 Yards in a season (which was Bennett’s season mentioned above; out of a combined 26 Seasons between the three of them). Jimmy Graham, however, has either hit 900 yards OR 10 TDS in his last two seasons alone. However, that run would have stretched all the way back to his second year in the league which was back in 2011 had he not succumbed to injury in 2015. So he has been doing this successfully for a longer time than any of the previous recruits had combined prior to even arriving in the Green Bay.

That’s all fine and Dandy Warhol but what are…

The Con’s…

You and what army…

In Seattle, there was Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin. That was it. I’m not saying it’s easy to be productive in a team that scored Rushing 2 TDS all season – I’m just saying Graham was probably a better alternative to that dismal effort Seattle offered up last season. I’m not being harsh, I appreciate all efforts by people who work their tails off – but no they were really poor on the ground. So who else would you use but Jimmy Graham close to the goal line? I’d say its fair to say he covered up some blemishes last season.

Green Bay, however? Davante Adams, Randall Cobb (despite having health issues is one of the most targetted end zone Receivers in the league), and the emerging Geronimo Allison are the Veterans along with the three Rookies drafted this year. All three Running Backs are capable in a pass-catching role and they can also ‘sniff out 6’ when called upon too. So this team is as crowded as it has been for a while. Lance Kendricks and new recruit Mercedes Lewis are the only other names of note in the squad and when the O-Line looks beat up they will likely be sent out there to pass-protect for Rodgers – something Jimmy Graham hasn’t been known to be very great at. So the thought that they are capable without him on the turf is acceptable I’d say. Speaking of game time…

Oh, Snaps…!

Jimmy Graham himself (excluding his Rookie season in 2010) on average sees 116 Targets a season. But the bulk of those highs came in New Orleans – when he hit Seattle that dropped significantly to an average of 88 Targets a game. Now to be fair, as we have mentioned he suffered a season-ending injury in 2015 (and he was on track to hit 107 Targets that season), however, he had an average of 95.5 Targets over the following two (healthy) seasons. And during those last two seasons, Graham had a minus 403-yard drop off in production. This is alarming considering it was never an issue previously to excel at both Targets and Yards but now it seems like it’s one or the other.

But Green Bay collectively average 97 Targets a year to the Tight End group as a whole. Aaron Rodgers himself in the decade he has been a Packer has only gone over 100 Targets to the TE position four times, and only once (2016) in the last five years. What’s worse is that Rodgers has only gone over five touchdowns in four seasons during that decade span too. In 2015 all 8 TDS went to Richard Rodgers who went 85-58-510yds and was the first time he achieved that since 2011. In that year Aaron Rodgers had 9 TDS total and Jermichael Finlay, whose numbers are mentioned previously had 8 TDs. So there has been a small sample of success at the position but is that enough to justify his…

Value…

Currently, Jimmy Graham, well, he’s not cheap. 

#51 overall in Standard Scoring and #52 overall in PPR, Graham is following suit from that back of last seasons 10 TD year as the TE4 in redraft leagues. I gotta say, for a guy whose yards are likely to be lower than his average (over 8 seasons he averages 850 yards a year) and will also likely see a TD regression is it safe to say that he may not return value on what you have to give up to get him? A 5th Round pick? Engram and Olsen are going a Round or two later and we know the chemistry they have in their teams. Rudolph and Walker fall a few Rounds later than that and we know what their roles are also. The upside in Trey Burton this year? Or the healthy (fingers crossed) return of Jordan Reed? A 5th Round pick is going towards a Tight End in a team that doesn’t always feature the Tight End and has a plethora of weapons in place already?

Targets Available – 

Jordy Nelson – 88 Targets / Martellus Bennett – 38 Targets / Richard Rodgers – 19 Targets

Total = 145 Targets Available

2018 Prediction – 

Targets; 98 / Catch Rate; 64.4% / Receptions; 66 / Yards; 720.72 / Yards Per Catch; 10.92 / TDS; 6

Fantasy Football Finish: Tight End 8 Overall

Summary – 

In a career that allows you to line up alongside three future Hall of Famers throwing it up to you must be an honor and a privilege – but a huge reason as to why you are always in the discussion of being in the Top 5 of your position. 

This year we see a change in the Tight End landscape. We still have your ‘Big 3’ in Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, and Travis Kelce but from there you can make the case for just about anyone. Names like Evan Engram, Jack Doyle (reunited with Andrew Luck), Trey Burton, O.J. Howard and Hunter Henry – it was his year (damn you hinge joints!) as young studs on the rise. But there is also a collection of Veterans that can put their hands up too. Kyle Rudolph is paired with a new Quarterback who loves to utilize the Tight End. Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker look to be healthy after a year of serious or nagging injuries. Tyler Eifert and Jordan Reed? I mean I don’t want to jinx them but when they are healthy there aren’t much better. These are all names that could all march into the Top 5 discussion if things go their way. The Tight End position, for the first time in a long time, feels deeper than normal.

The Targets to the position are just about what Graham requires to be on par with his previous production – but this assumes that Kendricks and Lewis play a lesser role than Graham – which could happen. We should expect a slight TD regression, the Packers have way too many players to just hone in on one guy – but Graham will still get his.

For me (and to be fair it seems to be the theme of the summer), if I can’t get a Gronkowski, Ertz or Kelce then I don’t feel a need to miss out on top players in the 5th Round – like Jarvis Landry, Rex Burkhead or a Rookie with huge upside in Royce Freeman that could further help my rosters construct to be strong as possible. Jimmy Graham is great, but as I mentioned in The Cons, I can get Kyle Rudolph later. I can get Jack Doyle much later. I can get Cameron Brate off of the Waiver Wire most of the year. I can stream a plethora of Tight Ends each week if I have to. Think about that in terms of ‘draft capital’ and ‘positional value’ for a moment. Do you want to lose a 5th Round pick on someone not considered elite for a position that you can stream all year?

And that right there is my answer. Jimmy Graham, for a Round 5 pick (in redraft formats) loses out to ‘The Cons’ this week.

I want to thank you for getting this far and taking in everything I have presented. You can as always follow and find me at @TheBLeagueSays and offer any view or conversation about this. Let’s all get better together!

Once again, Thank you and Enjoy!

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