Jimmy Graham: Saints Players Who Will Be Fantasy Stars in TE's Absence

Ben ChodosCorrespondent IIOctober 20, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 30:  Running back Darren Sproles #43 of the New Orleans Saints carries the ball against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 30, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham will miss the New Orleans Saints' division battle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but other players will step up and have excellent fantasy football performances this week due to his absence.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that Graham injured his ankle against the San Diego Chargers in Week 5 and will continue to rest this weekend.

Graham is a vital part of the Saints’ high-powered passing attack, and the team will certainly miss him against the Bucs. However, New Orleans is ranked first in passing yardage and third in passing attempts. The Saints will still take to the air early and often, allowing their receivers to rack up yards and catches. 

Here are the three players whose fantasy production will increase the most with Graham out.


Marques Colston 

Although Graham received more hype than any of the New Orleans wideouts in the preseason, Colston leads the team in nearly every statistical receiving category. 

Drew Brees has thrown to the veteran receiver more than any other player, and now that Graham—the quarterback’s second-favorite target—will not be on the field, he will get even more looks than he has in previous weeks.

Colston’s size will also make him a significant part of the team’s game plan. Without Graham’s physical presence in the red zone, Colston, at 6’4”, will be targeted heavily when the Saints get near the goal line.

As the team’s best all-around receiver, Colston’s fantastic stock is boosted more than any other player in Graham’s absence.


Lance Moore

Lance Moore’s fantasy performance may not benefit as much as Coltson’s due to Graham’s injury, but the 29-year-old has established himself as a major part of the offense and will be heavily involved against the Bucs.

Through the first five games, Moore is second on the team in receiving yards, despite having fewer catches (19) than Colston (28) and Graham (25). 

Brees trusts Moore to get open down the field, and his 15.1 yards-per-catch average is second on the Saints behind Colston. With more passes heading toward the wide receivers, there will be plenty of opportunities to catch passes behind the defense.

Tampa Bay's 25th -ranked pass defense will also help Moore have a productive day.


Darren Sproles

Ultimately, Graham’s absence is a severe blow to the offense, and the coaches will have to get creative in order to keep production from slipping. No New Orleans player can be used in as many different ways as Sproles, and his unique skill set will help fire up Pete Carmichael Jr.’s imagination while calling plays.

Sproles' speed and pass-catching ability creates significant matchup problems for opposing defenses, and the team will need to get the explosive back into the open field against the Bucs. 

Brees has completed 28 passes to Sproles, which is tied with Colston for the most on the team. The All-Pro QB often relies on Sproles as his checkdown option, while Graham also provides Brees with a reliable short-yardage option.

But in this Sunday’s game, Brees will exclusively look to Sproles when there is nothing open down the field, and that will lead to a fine fantasy performance.