You think I’m crazy, right? Who in their right mind in the history of fantasy football has ever drafted a tight end in the top-3? Even after the insane seasons that Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez and Rob Gronkowski have had.
Notice a common thread, though? All the top fantasy scoring tight ends have historically had their last name start with a “G.” No, that’s obviously not the reason – average draft position and situation are the two reasons why Jimmy Graham is going to win you a title this year if you draft properly.
Let’s get something out of the way first – he was hurt last year. His drop percentages were off the charts and that clearly affected him as the season wore on. As per the latest reports, however, the freakish tight end is having incredibly harmony with his Hall Of Fame quarterback Drew Brees. He’s back to 100 percent after a down year that resulted in an 85-catch, 982-yard, nine-touchdown stat line. Think about that for a second – literally everything went wrong for him and he was still dominating the position.
The tight end position has completely thinned out now that Gronkowski is hurting and Aaron Hernandez is out. Gates? Jermichael Finley? Jason Witten? Vernon Davis? Gonzalez? C’mon – it’s a crapshoot, every single week – even if the final numbers are there, there is no tight end in the league with the consistency and the upside of Graham, as well as a floor that equals a WR2.
Also, guess who’s back in the fold this year – Sean Payton. Without Payton, his red zone usage dropped tremendously. With him, he will be propelled past his previous heights because Payton is an offensive genius and he understands that skilled tight ends are the new queens on the chess board that is an NFL field. You also know that with Brees in tow, they will chuck the rock all game long so you don’t have to worry about underutilization.
OK, so I’ve given you all the situational factors about why Graham is a top-3 pick – floor, upside, consistency, coaching, offensive philosophy and health. What about the fact that we draft based on supply/demand and depth at a position? Let me tell you something – if you think wide receivers drop off big time after the top tier, just compare them side-by-side to tight ends. The difference in positions are – quarterback is deep, running backs are injury prone and in committees, and wide receivers have more available.
The average draft position for Jimmy Graham is 14th overall (second pick of the second round in a 12-team league). That means if you’re sitting in the back half of your draft, you probably don’t even need to bother with this article because there’s a good chance he’ll fall to you. But let’s say you want to steal him early.
If you take Graham in the top-3, you can still get solid running backs like Steven Jackson and Reggie Bush coming back. Your week-to-week advantage at tight end is enormous while providing close to a wash at running back as the season wears on. Taking Graham that early allows you to backfill all your skill positions according to value rather than being dictated by position runs.
I know it seems crazy, but try it in a couple mock drafts and watch the team you end up with – you’ll be shocked at how strong you look while having secured the only player with a tier of his own.