Seahawks Acquire Jimmy Graham

Mike Clay explores the fantasy impact of Jimmy Graham's acquisition by Seattle.

| 2 years ago
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Seahawks Acquire Jimmy Graham


graham headlineThe Saints sent shockwaves through the National Football League today when they sent all-pro tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks in exchange for center Max Unger and the 31st overall pick in May’s draft.

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Graham had been a fixture in New Orleans’ high-scoring offense since taking over for Jeremy Shockey late in the 2010 season. From 2011-2014 (including the playoffs), he appeared in 67 games, was on the field for 67 percent of the offensive plays (76 percent of pass plays) and handled 21 percent of Drew Brees’ targets. Graham caught at least 85 passes, racked up 889 or more yards and scored nine or more touchdowns in four consecutive seasons. That’s a ton of offense.

And it’s led to a ton of fantasy points.

Graham finished as fantasy’s No. 3 scoring tight end in 2014 after placing first, first and second, respectively, during the previous three seasons.

Now headed to Seattle, Graham’s fantasy prospects take a sizable hit. A first-round pick in most 2014 drafts, a “down” season and Rob Gronkowski’s impressive bounceback has led to a second-round ADP for Graham in early 2015 drafts. You can expect that to dip in the coming weeks, but the question is how far. Graham remains a top-five fantasy tight end, but he’s headed to an offense that runs fewer plays, scores fewer touchdowns, runs the ball significantly more often and scores a higher percentage of its touchdowns on the ground. Say what you want about Russell Wilson’s impressive play, but he’s not nearly as good a passer as Drew Brees. Graham takes a hit in nearly every category.

2014 Offensive Comparison
  Seahawks NFL Rk   Saints NFL Rk
Plays Per Game 63 22 68 2
% Pass 53% 30 64% 8
Touchdowns Per Game 2.6 11 3.1 5
% Pass 53% 29 67% 18

Except maybe one.

Since ranking fourth in the league with 21 end zone targets in 2011, Graham has managed a total of 29 over the past three seasons (20th in the NFL). That’s despite the fact that Graham is terrific in the department, having hauled in 29 of 56 career end zone looks. At times, he inexplicably wasn’t even on the field when New Orleans was at the goal line. This is an area where Seattle should look to take better advantage of Graham.

Graham immediately slots in as the Seahawks best receiver and figures to see a fair chunk of his targets lined up as a traditional wide receiver. Consider that only 147 (or 25 percent) of his 601 career targets have come while lined up as an in-line tight end. Another 51 percent came from the slot and another 24 percent while lined up out wide. With Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson, Ricardo Lockette and Chris Matthews highlighting Seattle’s wide receiver unit, Graham has a fairly clear path to what should be just under one quarter of the team’s targets.

That’s enough to allow 98 targets, 62 receptions, 833 yards and eight scores and thus a top-three finish at the position. Of course, it’s a hefty drop from what we’re used to seeing from Graham and falls roughly 75 fantasy points short of our Rob Gronkowski projection (140-94-1365-11). Tight end remains fairly shallow, however, which means Graham will still be worth your attention near the fourth/fifth-round turn.

Meanwhile, new teammate Luke Willson’s short- and long-term fantasy value takes a severe hit. He returns to a situational role and will now be a free agent (2016) prior to when Graham’s deal expires in 2017. In New Orleans, Josh Hill, Ben Watson and Orson Charles remain on the depth chart. Hill is an intriguing prospect and worth stashing in dynasty leagues, but it seems very likely that New Orleans will draft or sign an impact starter. Watson is 34 and no lock to make the roster. Charles is a blocker who has dabbled at fullback.

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Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL

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