by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There is no questioning who the elite tight end in the league is right now, especially with Rob Gronkowski undergoing back surgery this offseason. With him potentially opening the season on the PUP, it leaves Jimmy Graham standing alone atop the rankings.
The question is how much of an advantage does Graham really have over the rest of the field? You are going to hear and see people suggest that he is deserving of an early selection, maybe even in the first round. Is that really the best strategy? Let’s take a look:
First of all let’s look at the point value from 2012 in a standard format, though with 0.2 points per reception. Here’s a little sampling:
- Jimmy Graham – 85 catches for 982 yards and 9 TD – 169.2 points
- Jason Witten – 110 catches for 1,039 yards and 3 TD – 143.9 points
- Greg Olsen – 69 catches for 843 yards and 5 TD – 128.1 points
In this type of format, would taking Graham in the first round really give you that big of an advantage? Would it really be worth bypassing one of the elite running backs or wide receivers, in order to gain 25 points over the entire season?
Before we answer that question, let’s take the PPR format out of the question and look at the point totals for the same three tight ends:
- Graham – 152.2 points
- Witten – 121.9 points
- Olsen – 114.3 points
What if we change it to a full point per reception:
- Graham – 237.2 points
- Witten – 231.9 points
- Olsen – 183.3 points
Obviously the format does play a role, as does the fact that Graham missed one game. That said, Witten was expected to miss time early and had a total of 8 catches for 76 yards over the first three weeks.
The obvious knock on Witten is that he never scores TD, something we’ve addressed before (click here for the article). However, right now he is likely the second best receiver on his team and should continue to see ample targets week in and week out. While Graham is one of the top options on his team, there is a lot more competition for targets in New Orleans. We all know that Marques Colston and Darren Sproles are going to be heavily targeted. There’s also Lance Moore, who will be in the mix, as well as the potentially emerging ground game with Mark Ingram.
So far it doesn’t seem like Graham has a major advantage, does it? Now, let’s take a look at realistic projections for 2013:
- Graham – 90 catches for 1,050 yards and 10 TD
- Witten – 95 catches for 1,000 yards and 5 TD
In a 1 point per PPR format Graham would have a 30 point advantage. If we took the PPR out of play, it’s a 35 point advantage.
Could Graham come closer to his 2011 numbers (99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 TD)? Of course, but it’s far from a guarantee. Could Witten become a TD machine (he has scored as many as 9 TD before)? You never know.
Considering we’re talking about a base level of a 30 point difference, is that really enough to bypass an elite running back (where the talent disappears quickly) when Witten is going in the fifth round, on average, according to fantasypros.com (55.3 ADP)? Absolutely not.
While we didn’t include Olsen in the second part of this discussion, his inclusion at the beginning just goes to show you that you never know. Tight end is a volatile spot and it’s always possible for someone to step up and come reasonably close. Maybe this season it’s Rob Housler or Jordan Cameron? Whoever it is, someone is going to emerge (and chances are there will be more than one).
There’s just no reason to over reach on Graham, thinking that he gives you a major advantage over the rest of the field. Witten alone, available in the fifth round, is the best reason why. Throw in the potential to play the waiver wire (or taking a late round flier) and find an emerging talent is just too great.
What are your thoughts? Do you think Graham gives you a major advantage? Why or why not?
Make sure to check out all of our 2013 preseason rankings: