2013 Fantasy Football: Was Jimmy Graham Worth Drafting In The First Round?

By Dustin Manko
Jimmy Graham
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The first ever article I wrote for Rantsports.com was last summer, prior to most fantasy football league drafts. In it, I advised readers that waiting to draft a tight end could be a great strategy. The thought was that Jimmy Graham would go somewhere in the first two or three rounds, and that you could probably get similar (but admittedly less) production later in the draft. Remember draft day isn’t always about who you get, but when you get him. Le’Veon Bell, for example, finished 15th in standard running back scoring despite not getting drafted until around the ninth round in most leagues, making him a great value to owners.

When watching the games, it was clear that Graham is far and away the best tight end in football. He was the primary read for Drew Brees, he is essentially matchup proof, and even when playing limited snaps he usually still found ways to score points. He led the tight end position in scoring by 57.5 points. Let that sink in, he out produced the next closest player at his position by almost 10 touchdowns. He finished 12th in non quarterback scoring. In the interest of parity, there were also down games. Four times this season, Graham was held to less than six fantasy points per game, including posting a bagel against the New England Patriots.

While Graham dominated the total point production among his position, the points per game average paint a different picture. Graham led the position averaging 13.59 standard fantasy points per game, only slightly ahead of Rob Gronkowski (11.89), Julius Thomas (10.77) and Vernon Davis (10.67). Graham had an ADP of round one, Gronkowski six, Thomas 17, and Davis round five. All four tight ends battled injury issues at some point of the year, and Gronkowski was the only one who missed more than two games. Owners who drafted some of these tight ends later in the draft appeared to get pretty similar production on a per game basis, and possibly could have grabbed some serious talent at another position in place of taking Graham in round one.

From this, I hold my original theory that if you could have grabbed a stud player at another position early then capitalized on Davis, Thomas, or to a lesser extent Jordan Cameron, Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten (all averaging between eight and nine FFPPG) later in the draft then your team could have actually been in a better overall position, depending on if you selected wisely prior to drafting a tight end.

Again draft day is all about value. There is no need to pay top dollar for a product when you can get a similarly productive competitor at a discounted rate. While Graham was clearly the best tight end in football in 2013, waiting to draft one in later rounds appeared to be a fine strategy.

As always, I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.

Dustin Manko is an author at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DustinManko, ”Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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