Expected to continue his ascent to superstardom and carry fantasy owners to championships, the 2012 season has been filled with frustrating disappointment for New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.
Instead of being a world-beater, Graham has delivered good-but-not great production and an ankle injury. Those factors leave many owners perplexed about what to expect from the Saints tight end coming into Week 8's game against the Denver Broncos.
After missing last Sunday's victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, obviously the most vexing question of all is about his status against Denver.
According to the Saints' official Twitter feed, interim head coach Joe Vitt said Graham will test out his injured ankle in practice on Wednesday and he seemed hopeful that the star tight end would be in the lineup this week.
Vitt on Jimmy Graham "We will test him out Wednesday...we think he has a pretty good chance of being full go"— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 22, 2012
For almost every owner, Graham being in the starting lineup makes him an automatic start. On average, he was the 20th person taken off the boards in ESPN fantasy drafts, meaning most owners avoided taking a backup tight end altogether.
While his overall numbers are solid for a tight end, they certainly aren't Top 20 overall territory. Thus far, Graham has 25 receptions for 252 yards and three touchdowns, playing in four full games before being injured in Week 5 against the San Diego Chargers.
Nonetheless, with a dearth of consistent players at the position, Graham is one of a select few guys you can start with comfort on a weekly basis.
Luckily for fantasy owners, he should be in line for massive resurgence against the Broncos if he's in the lineup on Sunday.
Coming into Week 8, Denver has been consistently dreadful against the tight end—especially in the red zone. The Broncos have already given up five touchdowns in six games to opposing tight ends, including two to Chargers star Antonio Gates in Week 6.
Despite those struggles, the Broncos still rank among the NFL's best against the pass. Using Football Outsiders' DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metric, Denver has the ninth-best pass defense in the league, giving up 6.4 percent less passing yards than a replacement-level unit would against similar opponents.
Considering New Orleans' abject inability to run the football, it seems unlikely that the team would suddenly switch its game plan on Sunday.
That makes Graham an even more integral part of the offense, as Drew Brees will look to exploit the opposition's struggles against tight ends as much as possible.
Even if the Saints struggle as a whole, look for Graham to return in fine form and instantly reclaim his status as an elite fantasy option on Sunday.
Fantasy Projection: 8 REC, 90 YDS, 1 TD