Jimmy Graham’s bye was supposed to last just one week. According to Guerry Smith of CBSSports.com, Graham won’t even be in attendance for the New Orleans Saints’ matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida on Sunday.
Graham’s replacement in the Saints lineup figures to be David Thomas. Before rushing to the waiver wire to start Thomas in your fantasy lineup, consider this: Thomas only has two catches for 11 yards on the season. This isn’t a Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez tight end duo.
On top of that, the Buccaneers have given up far more fantasy production to wide receivers than tight ends. They have allowed just 22 catches for 265 yards and a touchdown to players at the tight end position in five games this year.
Graham was No. 1 in the early-week rankings based on his skill and his role in the Saints offense. None of the tight ends Tampa Bay has faced was the focal point of his team’s offense. Thomas will likely follow in that statistical trend.
The Dallas Cowboys’ Jason Witten played through a spleen injury to start the season, catching just eight passes for 76 yards and no scores in the first three games. Since then, he has caught 19 passes for an even 200 yards and a touchdown in two appearances for the Cowboys.
Most of his 13-catch, 112-yard stat line (touchdown included) against the Chicago Bears came well after the game’s victor was determined. However, the six for 88 that he posted at Baltimore in Week 6 took place in a game that was competitive from start to finish.
That’s encouraging going forward for anyone who was patient enough to wait for Witten. With Graham injured, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates off the board due to bye weeks and Vernon Davis already playing (and getting blanked versus the Seahawks) this week, Witten is a top-five guy going into Sunday.
Players who are readily available in many leagues that should be suitable spot starts for Graham include Scott Chandler (Buffalo Bills), Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati Bengals), Dennis Pitta (Baltimore Ravens) and Brandon Myers (Oakland Raiders).
Chandler and Gresham could be top-five fantasy tight ends for Week 7.
1. Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots (vs. New York Jets)
2. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (vs. New York Jets)
3. Scott Chandler, Buffalo Bills (vs. Tennessee Titans)
4. Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)
5. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (at Carolina Panthers)
6. Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings (vs. Arizona Cardinals)
7. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans (vs. Baltimore Ravens)
8. Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers (at Cincinnati Bengals)
9. Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens (at Houston Texans)
10. Dustin Keller, New York Jets (at New England Patriots)
11. Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)
12. Martellus Bennett, New York Giants (vs. Washington Redskins)
13. Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans (at Buffalo Bills)
14. Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions (at Chicago Bears)
15. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Cleveland Browns)