Drafting Jimmy Graham in the First Round

By Marcella Surra
Marcella Surra

Without question, Jimmy Graham is the highest point-producing tight end in the NFL. Most fantasy football experts will tell you it is never a good idea to draft a tight end in the first round, and typically, that is the right answer for a broad audience. Yet, year after year, fantasy football owners continue to do so regardless of the risk. Why?

Certainly, having a high point-producing TE on your roster gives you leverage, but does it hurt other areas of your roster? Do you lose out on better first-round options? Is it worth it? The answers to those questions depend greatly on your league’s point settings. In PPR-leagues, a tight end like Graham can produce as much as a typical running back, which would certainly make Graham worth an early draft pick. However, in non-PPR leagues, running backs are often the highest fantasy point earners. Drafting a TE in the first round when there are only so many good running backs to go around is tantamount to fantasy suicide. Hence, drafting a TE in the early rounds of the draft makes more sense in a PPR league.

If you are in a PPR league and you are planning on drafting Graham, you should definitely consider the benefits and the risks. First, consider your draft position. Will Graham be available to you in the second round? Meaning, if you are in a 10-man league, and you’re drafting in a snake-draft, will you be able to choose Jimmy as a second pick when the draft comes back your way? Or, will someone else be able to snag him? Consider the other league owners. Have they drafted Graham in the first round in previous years?

After these considerations, you must also consider which players are more valuable than having a top-tier tight end like Graham. Players like RB LeSean McCoy and RB Jamaal Charles put up considerably more points than Graham and they’re also top-tier. It could be argued that having them on your roster gives you just as much leverage as having a top-tier TE.

From an expert point of view, it is best to have as many top-tier players on your roster as possible. If the best top-tier running backs are gone, go after a top-tier quarterback or wide receiver, and so on. Pay attention to how the draft is unfolding. If it looks like all the running backs are going early, you might be able to hold off on drafting a good quarterback or wide receiver in the later rounds. Hence, if you decide to draft Graham in the first round, you should have a short-list of valuable quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs you can draft in the later rounds.

Case in point, last season, a good friend of mine Jimmy Graham in the first round. However, he was able to draft QB Tony Romo and RB Matt Forte in the next several rounds. Romo and Forte both put up good points all season, so drafting Graham early did not hurt his roster. However, my friend later told me that he knew going in that drafting Graham early meant he would not get a chance at a top-tier quarterback like Aaron Rodgers. Therefore, having a short-list of non-top-tier players that hold promise could come in handy. By the way, said friend went on to win the league.

Therefore, if you intend to draft Graham, the best course of action is to have a list of players who are exceptional late round values. To find these players, participate in several mock drafts. Drafting from several positions in the mock draft should help you get a sense of who will be out there and when you can snag him. If successful, you will essentially give your roster an advantage over other teams. If unsuccessful, you will end up with crappy players who you will regret drafting all season long. Good luck!