It’s been decided. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank has officially deemed Jimmy Graham a TE and not eligible to be franchise tagged as a WR. Burbank based his ruling on the assessment that lining up in the slot didn’t qualify Graham for a WR designation. While Graham still has the option to appeal, this ruling more or less puts a lid on the matter.
So here’s the impact on Graham’s fantasy football value. Burbank’s ruling basically solidifies Graham’s first-round ADP and makes him worth that high-value pick. Had Graham been ruled to be a WR, his value would’ve plummeted.
I’m not worried that lingering displeasure at missing out on an extra $5 million will disrupt his production with the New Orleans Saints in 2014. Once this has blown over, I fully expect Graham to play for his teammates and continue his magic with Drew Brees.
In 2013, Graham had over 1,200 receiving yards and 16 TDs, scoring 211 points in standard formats. That’s 55 more points than Vernon Davis, the second-highest scoring TE last year. With Rob Gronkowski’s health still a concern, Graham is clearly in a tier of his own as the clear top TE in fantasy.
Had Graham qualified as a WR, he would’ve been the fourth-highest scoring WR last year. While still impressive, that would’ve dropped his value out of the first round, as he would be considered in a tier of elite WRs along with Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and others. So this ruling really just confirms Graham’s current price tag.
However, on a broader scale, this ruling could have implications further down the road. Graham may be the first to argue for a WR tag, but he likely won’t be the last. Detroit Lions rookie TE Eric Ebron recently suggested a possible hybrid designation. He argued that modern-day “move” TEs lining up in the slot or out wide to receive as well as block are a new breed.
The league is clearly gravitating toward these bigger, faster TEs who can play as receivers and outmatch smaller defensive backs. As more teams begin utilizing their TEs as such, future disagreements over salary and position designation could lead to a hybrid WR/TE designation. If that happens, it could have a big impact on fantasy value, as those players would have added value with the ability to start in either roster spot.