It’s time we had a talk about Jimmy Graham. The latest Packer tight end we are trying to talk ourselves into is merely the newest in a long line of Packers tight ends that we’ve tried to talk ourselves into. Remember Jared Cook in 2016? Martellus Bennett in 2017? There’s no denying that Jimmy Graham has been a fantasy football force during his career, but his average draft position is a mess. He’s currently (per fantasyfootballcalculator.com) the first pick of the fifth round, and the fourth tight end off the board. There are several reasons why this is a disturbing trend, and why Jimmy Graham is a landmine you should let others step on.
First, it should be acknowledged that Jimmy Graham in 2018 is not the same Jimmy Graham who averaged a touchdown a game half a decade ago in New Orleans. He’s slower… a lot slower. A patellar tendon tear will do that to a player. While it didn’t destroy his career like it did to Victor Cruz, it still sapped Graham of a lot of what made him capital J Jimmy, capital G Graham. That lack of burst, agility and speed made him mostly viable as a first down weapon and a touchdown machine.
Long gone are the dreams of a big blowup game from Graham. It showed in his yardage totals, after posting just six games over 75 yards combined in his first two seasons with Seattle, Graham completely whiffed on hitting that number in 2018. That’s a disturbing trend, given that he is now supposed to be fully recovered from his patellar tendon injury. Unfortunately for Graham, you can’t get a surgery to escape Father Time (though Wayne Newton might disagree).
Second, the Packers don’t use the tight end. Ever, really. Over the last four seasons they’ve stayed extremely consistent at 15% target share to the tight end, and that includes not only Aaron Rodgers, but the myriad of QBs that have traipsed through Lambeau Field over the last half-decade. How did he fare in Seattle? He had 23% of the target share three years ago, 17% two seasons ago and 17% last year. That is with the Seahawks and their talent-bereft receiving corps and the churn-through of running backs.
Now he moves to Green Bay, who doesn’t use the tight end as much as he was used in Seattle. The Packers used three draft picks on wideouts, and have three incumbents (Adams, Cobb and Allison) who should soak up a ton of targets. While Graham will be an end zone weapon for Rodgers, there will simply not be enough yardage to go around between the 20s for Graham to rebound to gathering yardage-based fantasy points in 2018.
Yardage based fantasy points seem to be a massive bugaboo for Jimmy Graham in 2017. He gained only 57% of his fantasy points via yardage, the lowest out of every tight end with at least 50 targets. He is not just a touchdown-dependent fantasy football tight end, he is the tight end dependent fantasy football tight end. The problem with that? Changing teams, changing schemes, changing role in the offense, changing chemistry. You can’t count on Jimmy Graham’s tight end leading ten touchdowns again in 2018, and you cannot count on his yardage, either.
Jimmy Graham’s ADP is mostly driven by name and hype, and you should leave him for another team to draft him at his current draft price. He is extremely touchdown dependent and needs the scores that don’t exist for tight ends in Green Bay. His skill set has left him, with his biggest remaining skill being out jumping people in the end zone. That’s great, but if that’s all your tight end is getting you, he is not a top-four pick at the position. Let someone else step on that landmine.
After all, wouldn’t you rather have one of these guys?