Fantasy Football 2014: Jimmy Graham is King


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There is Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints and everyone else when it comes to tight ends in Fantasy Football and the NFL. Is a position change needed? Dan Salem and Todd Salem debate in part one of this week’s TD Sports Debate. Two brothers from New York yell, scream and debate the NFL and sports.


In the world of fantasy football tight ends, there are a number of dissenting opinions on strategy to fill the position. Some people like rotating and playing matchups with fill-in options week to week. Others like grabbing value late but relying on the depth of the position. Then there’s the feeling that you need to get one of the elite guys. But before we get into the dregs of tight end, there is an issue that must be addressed.

Jimmy Graham.

His numbers are off the charts. He is a stud every season, even with his proclivity towards missing a few matches each year. His quarterback is great; his offensive system is great; his talent is great. He is the number one fantasy tight end by a mile, but should he even BE a tight end?

In the real world of NFL football, this same discussion is happening with much bigger stakes. Jimmy Graham and his agent argue that he is a wide receiver and should be compensated as such. This makes a whole heck of a difference when considering franchise tags and new contracts. Even if his production isn’t altered, his positional title makes a strangely large difference.

His argument is that he lines up outside, where a receiver would, the vast majority of his plays. He rarely blocks and plays just like a big wide out. The Saints’ argument is that he occasionally lines up on the line of scrimmage, occasionally blocks on pass and run plays and generally appears like a tight end I suppose.

It is a little odd all around. In basketball, there are combo-guards and centers who aren’t centers and are really just power forwards but their team plays small. The titles don’t matter though. It’s all just jargon. It is weird that the titles in the NFL have such impact on salaries. It doesn’t make sense to me.

With that said, for fantasy purposes, Jimmy Graham’s ownership of the “tight end” moniker is of utmost importance. He is a first-round pick as a tight end. As a wide receiver? He’s still good and scores a lot of touchdowns, but he is suddenly not a first-round pick nor historically elite anymore.

Should he be a tight end or a receiver? Should the titles even matter? Should fantasy football remove the titles as well and just have positions for pass-catchers? If Graham becomes a receiver next season based on compensation, where does that rank on the list of all-time, off-field business affecting fantasy value? Still somewhere below the Aaron Hernandez murder charges I assume.

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I wish there was a second NFL player to lay along side Jimmy Graham in this debate, but he certainly stands alone heading into 2014. Jimmy is hands down the TOP tight end in fantasy football and in real football. He is the only tight end in the top 25 of receiving yards for 2013. Tight end Jordan Cameron from Cleveland falls in at number thirty. Everyone else in the top thirty is a wide receiver. But let’s go a little deeper to put things in perspective.

Jimmy Graham ranks 15th in receiving yards in 2013, just behind Vincent Jackson and ahead of Anquan Boldin. But Jimmy has twice as many touchdowns as both men, making him infinitely more valuable. Care to guess who is number one in receiving touchdowns for 2013? That’s right, its Jimmy Graham. He had two more scores than the second ranked player and six more trips to the endzone than the tenth ranked player. My point in all of these numbers, Graham is a first round pick regardless of whether you mark him a tight end or wide receiver. Add in the fact that one of the top five quarterbacks is throwing to him, and he is as sure of a lock as there is in fantasy football.

Yards come and go in fantasy, but getting into the endzone reliably should never be passed up. This makes Jimmy Graham the top receiver selection; top five at worst. He may no longer be historically elite as a wide receiver, but if he suddenly became one for fantasy football purposes, I don’t see his value dropping significantly. The Aaron Hernandez situation, where a star player suddenly disappeared, far eclipses any impact that Graham’s position change would have. The tight end position as a whole would take a hit, and Graham would not be so highly coveted, but ignore his touchdown scoring abilities at your own risk. It’s not like he would be used differently by the Saints. It’s not like Drew Brees would suddenly decide not to throw to him as much. I’ll shut up now and get to your more interesting questions.

Fantasy football should NOT get rid of the tight end position and Jimmy Graham should remain a tight end. The one change that should occur; the NFL salary structure should no longer value the tight end position as low as a fullback or offensive lineman. No offense to those positions, but tight ends touch the ball a lot more in today’s NFL than even five years ago. Back in the 90s they were glorified blockers while fullbacks actually got to run the ball. Now, the fullback is a glorified blocker and the tight end is a massive receiving target. Change this stupid monetary limitation.

So why keep the tight end in fantasy, and why keep Jimmy at the position? Simply put, selecting a tight end is an actual element of strategy in the fantasy game. Beyond taking Jimmy Graham, a sure-fire lock at the position, some actual thought needs to go into picking your tight end. As you noted, actual strategies exist to managing the position to success. Fantasy football often feels like a game of luck, so I’m against any rule change that removes strategy from it. Without the tight end position there would be a total of five tight ends selected in a ten team draft. That might even be generous. Why pick them? It basically renders them irrelevant, as even a team’s third wide receiver often catches more balls than the starting tight end.

As a former tight end in highschool, and with as little bias as possible, don’t kill the position. I may hate the Patriots, but I love how they use their tight ends to success. It’s a wonderful balance of power and deception. And it makes fantasy football more interesting. There will be another Jimmy Graham one day soon. But today he remains king.

[Part two – How to draft a Tight End]