New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham led the league in receiving touchdowns last year with 16, and he led all tight ends in receptions (86), yards (1,215) and targets (144) as well. All of those numbers would have ranked favorably among wide receivers, but Graham was clearly the top tight end for fantasy owners in 2013, outscoring second-place Vernon Davis by 55 points in ESPN standard scoring.
The Saints have a lot of depth at wide receiver, but Graham is clearly the No. 1 target for Drew Brees and that will not change dramatically this year.
Despite being the focus of opponents’ game plans, Graham had at least five receptions or a touchdown in 14 games (both seven times) last season. That kind of consistent production is notable, since he suffered a left foot injury in Week 6 and never seemed to be 100 percent the rest of the season.
Graham’s offseason looks likely to highlighted by a battle over whether he should designated as a tight end or a wide receiver for purposes of the franchise tag, and a grievance hearing is scheduled for mid-June. If he and the Saints agree to a long-term deal soon the position designation becomes moot, but until things are settled one way or the other Graham is unlikely to report for any offseason work and his status for training camp could become a question if the situation lingers.
Graham was limited by that left foot injury in multiple games down the stretch last season, and his snap count often fluctuated on a game-by-game basis. He is not worthy of the injury-prone label yet, but some nagging injuries over the last couple seasons could start to become a concern.
Graham is the No. 1 option at tight end for fantasy owners again this year, and as the top target in a pass-oriented offense with one of the league’s top quarterbacks in place his downside is minimized. I’m typically hesitant to use a first-round pick or a lot of auction money on a tight end, but Graham is the one player at the position who is worthy of such a significant draft day investment.
Bye Week: Week 6
Projected Round: First Round
Auction Value: $47