3 reasons to be excited about Packers tight end Jimmy Graham in 2019
There once was a time when Jimmy Graham, currently of the Green Bay Packers, was widely regarded as the best tight end in all of football. As a third-round pick from the 2010 NFL Draft, Graham wasn’t immediately projected to become a superstar given his draft spot in relation to the overall scarcity of talent at his position.
The New Orleans Saints took Graham under their wing and became a household name in almost an instant. Thanks in large part to having Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Drew Brees under center, Graham earned three of his five Pro Bowl nods in New Orleans.
The 2013 season was the peak of the Miami product’s career, racking up 86 catches for 1,215 yards and a whopping 16 touchdowns. And although he’d have a couple more Pro Bowl selections as a Seattle Seahawk from 2015-17, Graham hasn’t come close to replicating his magical 2013 campaign since.
Last season, the Packers signed Graham to a three-year deal. Many believed that the pass-catching specialist would revitalize his career by having yet another Hall of Fame-worthy quarterback in Aaron Rodgers throwing passes in his direction.
However, Graham continued to put up decent but not eye-popping numbers. He’d finish 2018 with 55 receptions, 636 receiving yards, and just two touchdowns.
Despite Graham’s struggles in finding his stride from his stint in New Orleans, there are still some compelling cases to be made in support of his second-year run at Lambeau. Here are three reasons why the NFL world should still keep a close eye on the 6-foot-7 offensive juggernaut.
3. Solid Fantasy Football Value
To start things off, let’s take a look at Graham’s outlook from a pure entertainment point of view.
As per FantasyPros, Graham is currently listed as the 19th-best tight end on the board. While that ranking doesn’t seem like an affirmation of Graham becoming a fantasy stud once more, the tight end position is and will always be a wild card in fantasy football.
As such, waiting for Graham in the mid-to-late rounds is a sound move. He’s had a well-documented history of producing TE1 numbers in the past, and his current ranking is just about where the likes of George Kittle, Eric Ebron, and Jared Cook were in 2018; all of whom surprisingly put up top-tier numbers.
Also, there’s virtually nobody else on the Packers roster contending with Graham for his starting spot. In fact, his backup Robert Tonyan is near the bottom of the TE fantasy barrel, currently ranked at a distant 80th place out of 90 eligible tight ends.
2. New Coaching Staff
In previous seasons, it was clear that former Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t keen on using tight ends in the passing game. Now that McCarthy is out and new head coach Matt LaFleur is in, perhaps a spike in more tight-end centric passing plays are in line for Graham to seize upon.
LaFleur’s been offensive-minded throughout his collegiate and professional coaching career, so there’s no need to fret about the Packers losing focus on their biggest strength on the field.
Moreover, one of LaFleur’s first moves as head coach was the signing of tight ends coach Justin Outten. The two have worked together with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 — the year that the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl behind a high-powered offense.
That being said, all signs point to Graham becoming more involved in the Green Bay offense. And let’s not forget that Aaron Rodgers is still phenomenal at finding any and all of his receivers downfield as long as he remains healthy.
1. Minimal Changes in the Packers Offense this Offseason
Judging Green Bay’s offseason moves to date, there’s been little to no indication that the team is ready to part ways with Graham just yet.
So far, three out of the four free-agency signings made by the Packers were for defensive positions (Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, Za’Darius Smith), and the lone signing on offense was guard Billy Turner. There were no rumors nor moves made by the team in terms of securing a new tight end either, let alone new pieces in the receiving corps altogether.
Granted, the Packers could save $5.3 million in cap room should they decide to cut Graham this offseason. Then again, they still have about $13 million in cap space to work with even after their recent signings.
This makes the decision to keep the 32-year-old standout on the team much easier for Green Bay. There’s a higher upside to giving Graham another chance to prove himself for another year compared to the relatively low return on investment if the Packers were to release him so soon.