Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas grabbed the offseason headlines at the tight end position. However, there are two other quality options that will appear in the article who also changed teams this offseason that are currently being drafted in the top 8 at their position.
Jimmy Graham, Seahawks
Every publication or opinion on Jimmy Graham’s fantasy value with the Seahawks revolves around the same concepts.
– Less opportunity
– Greater red zone production
I will start with the one that I agree with. There is no doubt that Graham will be getting less targets than what he was use to seeing with the Saints. Over the past four seasons, Graham has averaged 138 targets per season. Graham has turned these targets into impressive stats posting averages of 89 receptions, 1099 yards, and 11.5 touchdowns over that span.
Keep those numbers in mind.
Russell Wilson has been running the show in Seattle for three years. In that time, he has yet to have a pass catcher record ANY of the following:
– 100+ targets
– 70+ receptions
– 900+ yards
– 8+ touchdowns
Here are the two questions you need to ask yourself before evaluating Jimmy Graham:
1. Are the lack of impressive receiving numbers a product of the run-heavy offensive scheme that Seattle uses?
- 2014: 525 rush attempts (2nd in the league)
- 2013: 509 rush attempts (2nd in the league)
- 2012: 536 rush attempts (1st in the league)
2. Are the lack of impressive receiving numbers a product of never playing with a top tier pass catcher?
It is more than likely a combination of both, but with the success that that Seattle has had the past three seasons I cannot imagine them making any drastic changes to their offense.
The point that I am having a hard time connecting with this is that Graham is somehow going to become an even bigger red zone monster. Before we get into the fine brushstrokes of the red zone, allow me to paint a picture comparing the Saints and Seahawk’s 2014 offensive numbers.
Yards Per Game: Saints 411 > Seahawks 376
Pass Yards Per Game: Saints 298 > Seahawks 203
Points Per Game: Saints 25.1 > Seahawks 24.6
Red Zone Possession Per Game: Saints 4.1 > Seahawks 3.7
Red Zone Scores Per Game: Saints 2.4 > Seahawks 1.9
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage: Saints 60% > Seahawks 52%
You know the saying, but I can’t help myself, just one more.
Red Zone Passing: Brees – 54 / 83 / 25 touchdowns > Wilson 28 / 57 / 13 touchdowns
So let me get this straight. Jimmy Graham is going to a team that had (deep breath) less yards per game, less pass yards per game, less points per game, fewer red zone possessions per game, fewer red zone scores per game, a lower red zone touchdown percentage per game, annnnnnd a quarterback who has about half the success in red zone passing.
I understand that Graham had a big hand in making the Saints offense elite. Maybe he is the piece that will launch Seattle’s offense into the stratosphere, or at least propel them the one yard that would have won the Super Bowl. Graham is the best receiving option Wilson has ever had at his disposal. In turn, I expect Graham to post one of the better seasons that any Seahawk pass catcher has had under Wilson. Despite the downgrade in offense, Graham still needs to be the second tight end to come off the board on draft day.
Julius Thomas, Jaguars
I would love to go against the grain and provide some promising statistics on how Thomas will be able to overcome the shift from Peyton Manning to Blake Bortles, I am not a liar though.
No Touchdowns = No points
The biggest problem is that Thomas’s fantasy production is tied to scoring touchdowns, something that the Jaguars struggle to accomplish. In the six games he failed to find the end zone last season, he put fantasy owners behind the eight ball never scoring more than 3.5 fantasy points. If Bortles does not improve on the 15 touchdown passes he threw last year it could be a lean year for Thomas.
I am not sure if there are any “touchdown only” fantasy leagues still in operation. I like to think a league like that would be comprised of men 65+ who have no idea how to use a computer and still record stats by hand from the USA Today sports page. Anyways, if there are, Thomas still holds value in that format as they are sure to force the ball to their 46 million dollar investment in the rare cases they do find the red zone.
Owen Daniels, Broncos
Hooking up with Peyton Manning and the potent Denver offense is going to be like finding the fountain of youth for Daniels.
Tight end production with Peyton Manning last seven years.
2014: Julius Thomas – 489 / 12
2013: Julius Thomas – 788 / 12
2012: Jacob Tamme – 555 / 2 – – Joel Dreessen 356 / 5
2010: Jacob Tamme – 631 / 4
2009: Dallas Clark – 1106 / 10
2008: Dallas Clark – 848 / 6
2007: Dallas Clark – 616 / 11
Owen Daniels has produced some very solid yardage totals over his nine-year NFL career. In the five seasons that Daniels has played 15+ games, he has recorded yardage totals of 768, 862, 677, 716, and 527 last year in Baltimore. Finding the end zone is where he has lacked, only scoring 5+ touchdowns three times in his career. Playing in an offense that scored 58 touchdowns last year should help that number.
Jordan Cameron, Dolphins
While no one will confuse Cameron for a tight end who can block, he should fit the bill for attacking the middle of the field, which is something head coach Joe Philbin plans on doing more of. Cameron has impressed at OTAs with his size, catch radius, and ability to get down field.
Opportunities should be there for Cameron as quarterback Ryan Tannehill often found himself targeting former Dolphin tight end Charles Clay. Over the past two seasons, Clay has averaged 94 targets per season.
Cameron is a bit of an unknown entering his fifth season. He burst onto the fantasy scene in 2013 with a line of 80/917/7, but followed that up with an injury filled 2014 campaign in which he only played in 10 games. Injuries are definitely a concern with Cameron, who has yet to make it through all 16 games.
Don’t sweat it if you miss out on Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham in the early stages of the draft. Guys like Daniels and Cameron, who could potentially put up top 5 tight end seasons, can be had six rounds later.
Keep an eye out for an upcoming article to see where these guys fall in my tight end season rankings.
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