Fantasy football is a game where you are doing your best to obtain the best players at each position. Your typical standard league will roster a QB, 2 WRs, 2 RBs, some sort of FLEX option, and of course, a TE. This tight end position has began an evolution in the National Football League as we are beginning to see more and more pass-catching athletes with a “big bodies” play the position.
At the moment, this evolution is still young. And at the moment, Jimmy Graham stands alone as the most dominant tight end in football. Our beloved Rob Gronkowski would be in this conversation, but health is a major concern for him.
Graham enters this offseason in a contractual dilemma. The NFL has a unique rule, the franchise tag, which is for rostered players who’s contracts are set to expire. This rule has become pretty complicated since 2011′s new CBA deal, but here is 10 things to know about the redefined rule.
For those as confused as I am after reading that, I will summarize it as generally as I can so we can take what we need from it in terms of fantasy football. Jimmy Graham will be on the Saints next year because this team will not let him walk. But Graham, being human and wanting to make the most money possible, will push with the league to be considered a wide receiver. Watching him play this year, I noticed he does line up out wide where the wide receiver usually does play. Gaining wide receiver recognition would make him millions of dollars more than a tight end under a franchise tag.
What does this mean to his fantasy value? Let’s take a look at the “what if” situations heading into 2014 considering Jimmy Graham…
If considered a TE…nothing changes. Jimmy Graham remains the #1 tight end in the league and almost every expert’s position rankings. Considering his production compared to others at the position, Graham has found himself in first round pick conversations. In ESPN standard scoring leagues, Graham outscored #2 tight end Vernon Davis by 55 points. He went into the year as the consensus #1 TE, and finished there as well. No other player (Rodgers or Brees, Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson) at their position was able to do that. He is as good of a guarantee as it gets.
If considered a WR, and NOT a TE…then his value is not nearly as great. I’m not sure how fantasy sites will deal with this position change if it occurs, but if he loses his TE label then you have to compare his production to what WRs around the league are doing. Graham finished with 211 points, which would have put him at #4 at the WR position this year, only behind Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, and Josh Gordon. Tight ends typically don’t produce like wide receivers, but Graham is an obvious exception. Watch for him to be a 3rd round pick if he loses his TE label.
It’s important to point out if Jimmy Graham is labeled as a WR, that doesn’t mean his role in the offense will change. Using Graham’s history of production is valid, and it’s safe to say Graham would be a top 7 WR in 2014 fantasy football drafts. Stay posted on any news in this debate…