Is Jimmy Graham Actually a Worthwhile Late-Round Pick in Fantasy Football Drafts?
While JJ Zachariason has recently been giving out instructions on how to spot a breakout player at the tight end spot, we should not forget that seasoned veterans are also able to surprise us with a season of fantasy relevance. Look at Gary Barnidge in 2015 for instance.
Barnidge, in his first seven seasons in the NFL, had caught 44 balls for 603 yards and three touchdowns. He was on nobody's fantasy radar heading into that season. But from out of nowhere, Barnidge had 79 grabs for 1,043 yards with 9 touchdowns, finishing the season as the TE4. We shouldn't therefore automatically write off the old guys. However, I think in 2020 you can easily talk yourself out of trusting Jimmy Graham on your fantasy roster.
Those Were the Days
For so long a stud at the tight end spot alongside Rob Gronkowski, Graham's production has gone downhill over the last few years. Indeed, despite playing in all 16 games in each of the last four seasons, Graham finished as the TE4, TE7, TE12, and then TE21 last season.
Graham has averaged a mere 8.4 PPR points per game over the last three seasons, and in 32 games with the Green Bay Packers, he finished as a weekly TE1 nine times. None of those came after Week 7 of last season. You can see here how his production has dropped in each of those seasons.
Graham is not able to point at the quarterbacks who have been throwing him the ball over this span as reasons for his lack of production. Between 2016-2017, Graham had Russell Wilson as his quarterback. While for the last two years, it has been Aaron Rodgers.
No Volume or Efficiency
In Graham's defense, he wasn't the focal point of the Green Bay Packers offense. So he couldn't be expected to be as productive as he was in his New Orleans Saints heyday when between 2011 and 2014 he commanded an average target share of 21.5%. Not on a target share of 11.5%, 28th among all tight ends, which he saw last season.
But the facts of fantasy football are that if you are not going to command a monster target share, then you at least need to be efficient. Graham was not. Of the 19 tight ends to see at least 60 targets last season, Graham's Net Expected Points (NEP) per target mark of 0.29 was 12th. His Reception Success Rate - the number of plays that contribute towards positive NEP - was 76.32%. Only Noah Fant had a lower mark in this group.
New Scene, Same Result
The fact that Graham is on a new team is even more reason for me to fade him in fantasy terms, especially given the identity of his new quarterback. With the Chicago Bears, Graham will go from Rodgers to either Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles.
Efficiency is not something that Graham is likely to enjoy from either of these players, if history is anything to go by. Of the 41 quarterbacks with at least 125 drop backs last season, Trubisky was 33rd in Passing NEP per Drop Back (0.01) while Foles was 37th (-0.08).
Graham will be readily available at the end of drafts, if current draft data is anything to go by. He's the TE42 in FanBall drafts at present, with an ADP of somewhere in the 19th round. However, while some players could look like a bargain at this low, low price, you should consider that we have Graham ranked as the TE32. So what upside are you getting from taking him at all? None at all, it seems.
The days of Jimmy Graham being an asset to your weekly lineups have ended. Don't cling to the past.