Jimmy Graham Not Worth 1st-Round Pick in Fantasy Drafts Despite Supreme Talent

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IAugust 13, 2014

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 08:  Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints has a pass broken up by  Mike Mitchell #21 of the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Here's a pretty good rule for any fantasy owner going into a draft: Don't take a tight end in the first round. While some might be tempted this season due to Jimmy Graham's undeniable talent, don't take the bait.

Most fantasy "gurus" will say draft a running back in the first round. But with a limited amount of lead backs this season, owners are already falling into the trap of taking the New Orleans Saints player late in the opening round.

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 11:  Tight end Jimmy Graham #80 of the New Orleans Saints looks on in the first half while taking on the Seattle Seahawks during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at CenturyLink Field on January 11, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

In fact, FantasyFootballCalculator.com currently has Graham holding an average draft position of 1.08 with the highest being a staggering 1.02. That puts the tight end ahead of Marshawn Lynch and No. 1 receivers like Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant.

Sure, he might be a better option than most receivers, but not those players, some of which are falling to the second round. After putting up astronomical numbers in 2013, Mike Clay of ESPN.com (subscription required) points out one area where Graham will regress:

Each of the 10 players who scored 16 or more offensive touchdowns during the five seasons previous to 2013 saw their total fall by at least four scores the next season. So it seems the best-case scenario for Graham is 12 scores, while the average decrease drops him to 9.2 scores. Graham is an exceptional player, but the odds of him averaging a score per game again this year are close to zero.

This is not to say that Graham won't be the No. 1 tight end, because he will. He might even wind up being better than most receivers, but not a receiver like Bryant, Thomas or even Calvin Johnson—if he's still available.

When actually comparing Graham to projections for the top receivers, he falls short to the top five wideouts. Here's a look at Graham against those players, according to NFL.com's projections:

Graham vs. Top 5 Receiver Projections
PlayerRec. YdsTDsProj. Fantasy Pts
Calvin Johnson1,60713258.7
Demaryius Thomas1,39513234.3
A.J. Green1,44312230.3
Dez Bryant1,39913225.1
Brandon Marshall1,31012215
Jimmy Graham1,14513204.5
NFL.com

Simply put, Graham's simply not worthy of being taken in place of a No. 1 receiver against others available in the first round.

While Rob Gronkowski is injury prone and Julius Thomas is coming into just his second year, taking those players later might be more worth the risk. Therefore, a combination of Bryant and Thomas or Jordan Cameron might wind up making for a more complete roster.

The fact that the Saints also added another receiving option in Brandin Cooks and the emergence of Kenny Stills could reduce targets for Graham. Though he'll still be a fantasy star, it won't be the same level as last season.

So before going out on a limb to take Graham in the first round, consider the options available in later rounds. Just remember, no tight end should be worthy of a first-round pick—even Graham.

 

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