It’s hard to believe that at 29 years old tight end Jimmy Graham’s best fantasy days are already behind him, but at this point, it’s also difficult to argue he will become that top tiered tight end ever again.
Ranked as the No. 15 tight end at Fantasy Pros, that would have been considered an absolute steal two years ago. His skills couldn’t have declined that much to justify that much of a drop, right? Well, actually Graham shouldn’t even be ranked that high.
His 106.0 overall ADP is 25 spots ahead of where the expects at Fantasy Pros rank him (131st overall), so even as a high-end TE2, Graham is overvalued. And there are major red flags as to why that’s the case.
Firstly, the 29-year-old is coming off a major knee injury. He ruptured his right patellar tendon in Week 12 against the Steelers and didn’t return. Usually the recovery time for such an injury is a year, but the Seahawks removed Graham from the PUP list last week, indicating an absolutely amazing recovery time of just eight months.
More than likely, though, he still isn’t 100 percent and honestly, Graham might not ever be the same player. Victor Cruz suffered the same injury in Week 6 of the 2014 season and hasn’t played since then. Rumor has it that Cruz is also in danger of being cut this month, which is quite a stark contrast for a player who was a couple of yards shy of recording three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2013.
Graham is going to have to prove on the field this regular season that this same decline isn’t going to happen to him.
However, even if he wasn’t returning from this major injury, Graham still would have a fraction of the fantasy value he had before last season. Seattle’s offense did a very poor job of incorporating the former All-Pro into their offense and before the ruptured patellar tendon, Graham was losing some redzone targets to back up tight end Luke Willson.
The 29-year-old finished with his fewest amount of targets (74), receptions (48) and yards (605) since his rookie season and a career-low two touchdowns. During his final year in New Orleans, he had 125 targets, 85 catches, 889 yards and 10 touchdowns. Graham’s final numbers were obviously hurt by the fact he missed the last five games in 2015, but his averages fell off a cliff.
Graham averaged more than one fewer target per game last season than the year prior, and his catch percentage dropped from 68.0 percent to 64.9. That right there indicates both his lack of involvement and the disconnect between the tight end and quarterback Russell Wilson.
Maybe most frustrating is the fact the Seahawks failed to even utilize Graham in the redzone, which was supposedly the very reason the team acquired the big-bodied tight end in the first place. Graham received just eight red zone targets in 11 games last season. In 2014, the Saints targeted the 29-year-old 21 times in the scoring area.
The only improvement he made in his game was average slightly more yards per catch than compared to his 2014 total, but that increase wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the loss everywhere else, particularly in the touchdown department. And all of this drop off led to Graham averaging 2.7 fewer fantasy points per game last year (9.3 fantasy points per game in 2014 as opposed to 6.6 in 2015).
When healthy, the talent is still there, so yes, lots of owners are going to want to take a flier on him. Just make sure you aren’t the owner who reaches too soon. Graham is recovering from arguably the toughest injury to return from in football and even before the injury, he wasn’t a big enough part of the offense to justify starting him as a TE1 in even 14-16 team leagues.