FA Expectancy – Jimmy Graham

Updated: July 4th 2018

Our Free Agent (FA) Expectancy series is back! Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Jimmy Graham – TE – Green Bay Packers

When Jimmy Graham signed with the Packers in March there was plenty of excitement for owners that held his services. He was moving to an offense that features one of the best quarterbacks ever, Aaron Rodgers, and with the departure of Jordy Nelson, ARod would be looking for a new favorite red zone target. Davante Adams has emerged as a talented receiver but after Randall Cobb, who hasn’t done much since his breakout 2014 campaign, there are not many names that would warrant consideration for consistent targets. This must be a perfect match for Jimmy Graham to reclaim his TE1 title; or is it?

Since 2009 the Green Bay tight end has had a significantly reduced role in terms of target share and usage. The last two years Green Bay TEs have shrunk down to 15.8% and 10% of total targets and 8.2% and 6.2% for the team’s TE1 individual target share. The ceiling at this point may be similar to Richard Rodgers’ 2015 season where despite tight ends only being targets 18%, Rodgers managed to hold a 14.8% individual target share with 85 targets. This would have been good for a low-end TE1 target share in fantasy last season.

Many would be quick to point out that Graham is a far superior talent to Richard Rodgers and should, therefore, be able to outproduce his greatest statistics. Well, if we look back to the earlier career of Aaron Rodgers when he had the talented Jermichael Finley at tight end the stats are surprisingly not much different. In 2011 and 2012 Finley had 92 targets and 87 targets for a team target share of 16.7% and 15.6% respectively. This was also before every NFL team was running more 11 personnel (3WR, 1TE, 1RB) than any other type of formation so if a blocking TE is needed for running plays don’t expect to see Graham on the field. If Green Bay is creative with their schemes, they should find ways to use Graham as the third receiver and instead have Mercedes Lewis, who was also acquired, be the more traditional TE in 11 personnel formation. We will see though.

All in all, it is still likely that Graham will be a strong play at the weak tight end slot in fantasy. It should not be expected, however, that he would return anywhere close to his wide receiver level of production that he had with Drew Brees in New Orleans like some seem to think. If he is available in your auction this year look for a two year deal between $7-10MM annually. This way if he is productive in Green Bay you have him at about the highest TE Franchise Tag anyways without having to use your tag this season. If he has an expiring contract this year I would only be looking to resign him if either his contract is another one year deal or his annual value is low enough that if he doesn’t work out/retires in 2019 and beyond his cap space would not be a huge detriment. Without know his statistics through the first four weeks of this season I would suggest in the range of either $8MM/1year or $18MM/3year as a respectable contract for resigning Graham this season.

Seattle Seahawks Identity Problem

Fans of football have often reflected on the Seahawks trading for Jimmy Graham in 2015 as a knee-jerk reaction to the famed interception that cost them a second consecutive the season prior. The logic behind it sort of makes sense. If they had a big receiver that could they could trust in the end zone to “climb the ladder” for a jump ball instead of trying to throw inside to a smaller receiver they would have been champions twice over. They decided to trade away a key offensive line piece, center Max Unger, to try and solve this issue but in return ended up losing their team identity of being aggressive with their run game and defense. They haven’t looked the same since that Super Bowl 49 loss.

With Graham now gone and most of their defensive superstars either gone or aging it will be interesting to see how the Seahawks view their best strategy to win moving forward. They brought in Brandon Marshall to see if he still has some game left in him but at 34 and coming off multiple lower body surgeries it’s not even a guarantee that he makes the roster let alone has any fantasy value. The team drafted rookie running back Rashaad Penny in the first round which was a surprising move to many. This may indicate that the team wants to return to a game-controlling, run-first offense. Without much improvement on the offensive line, however, this may be difficult to accomplish so expectations for Penny should be kept at an RB3-4 max until we see how he will be utilized in both the passing game and carries per game. Ultimately, it comes down to how effective Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin can be and those three players (Wilson, Baldwin, and Penny) are the only players to expect game-to-game consistency in fantasy this season. Tyler Lockett does have upside but he hasn’t looked as explosive since his leg injury in 2016. He will have great games but be a ghost for more than one would feel comfortable as their third or fourth option at receiver.


Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Leave me a message on Twitter @NickAndrews_RSO.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

FA Expectancy: Robert Woods

Updated: July 31st 2017

For the final 2017 FA Expectancy article, I wanted to shine the spotlight on Robert Woods who signed with the L.A. Rams. His arrival wasn’t a big splash like Brandin Cooks in New England or Alshon Jeffery in Philadelphia and most owners have seen Woods move from one stagnant offense in Buffalo to another in L.A. as neutral at best. So why should anyone be excited about a receiver moving to the 27th ranked team in pass attempts in 2016 and who hasn’t accumulated more than 700 yards or 5 touchdowns in a season? It all has to do with the situation he finds himself with new coach Sean McVay and the lack of experienced receivers on the depth chart.

Can Woods Be the #1 Option?

The Bills for the last two seasons under Rex Ryan finished 31st and 32nd in pass attempts. Before Ryan arrived Woods had 65-699-5 in his sophomore season playing alongside Sammy Watkins and the team was ranked 13th in pass attempts. With the three years that most expect receivers to develop it would have been interesting to see how Woods would have developed in a moderate passing offense these last two years.

Last season Watkins missed weeks 2-11 forcing Woods to be the WR1 and he produced an average of 10.66 points in PPR leagues. This was highlighted by his game on Monday Night Football in week 9 against Seattle of all teams when he had 10 catches for 162 yards. Clearly, he can contribute enough to be a fantasy relevant receiver and this all came with only a single touchdown in 2016. Increasing his touchdown total to even a moderate 5 or 6 would make Woods a solid WR3 with WR2 upside on a weekly basis.

Fisher-less Rams

Despite some confusion midseason with the Rams giving Jeff Fisher a contract extension the team finally came to their senses and fired him before the end of the season. His replacement, Sean McVay, is the youngest head coach in the modern NFL history (30). With all the hype surrounding Kyle Shanahan and how he will be changing the fortunes of the 49ers, there’s not much being talked about with McVay’s success. I argued this in a previous article that Shanahan wasn’t that dominant of a play caller for Washington and after McVay replaced him the team actually scored a slightly higher amount of touchdowns (38:34) per season.

So why are people so high on players like Pierre Garcon and Joe Williams but aren’t as high on Robert Woods and Todd Gurley? The only reason must be because of how little publicity the moves the team made in the offseason have been and the stigma of a Fisher-led team leaves. We should remember that before last year’s draft most expected Jared Goff and Carson Wentz to be developmental QBs and were likely going to be 2-3 years away before deciding what their NFL talent levels would be. Therefore, it should be expected that there be an improvement from last year. Even if the quarterback play doesn’t improve drastically from Goff the addition of McVay should increase the passing numbers from Fisher’s 27th ranking last year.

 

Addition by Subtraction

The team added Andrew Whitworth to the offensive line which was a big reason for Gurley’s disappointing sophomore season. Getting a running game involved in the offense will always help open up zones in the secondary which is where Woods earns his money. At 6ft, 200lbs and a 4.51 40-time Woods isn’t going to blow the top off or box out defenders, he will need time to create separation and make himself open. Luckily for Woods, the Rams still have Tavon Austin who can be the speedy, gadget player that can stretch the field. They also released last year’s receiving leader Kenny Britt along with Brian Quick which immediately put Woods in the role of the X receiver. The team did draft Josh Reynolds (a Matt Waldman darling) and Cooper Kupp who people are very excited about for the future. Still, somebody has to be the primary option and at least for 2017 that would seem to be Woods. Averaging 10PPR points seems like a floor for Woods who wouldn’t need to be more than a WR4/5 on any roster. With the upside of being a target volume vacuum in what should be a more pass friendly team, the cost of $3-6MM for Woods offers tremendous value for the stat line he could have.

 

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Fantasy Doc OC’s Gameplan #1

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”Robert Louis Stevenson

Rarely as fantasy players do we get to witness the marriage of the very worst to the very best.   The romcom equivalent of the bride and groom at the altar destined for unspeakable calamity until the voice of reason crying from the congregation to “stop.”   This year we get a fantasy union of striking proportions and no one is screaming any objections just yet. This year’s most eligible bachelor comes in the form of an offensive coordinator-turned head coach.  His blushing bride, the worst offense if football. My contention is that offensive coordinators are one of the most crucial, least evaluated variables in fantasy production.   There is little glamour to be found in glitchy microsoft pads or dapper headsets that make up the tools of the offensive coordinator’s trade, but I will attempt to offer some predictive claims based on the scoring opportunities   This series of articles will dive into the potential impact of new playcallers on your fantasy players.  Consider two teams:

Team A: Finished dead last in the league in 2016.  The percent of team’s drives ending in an offensive score at 21.8%

Team B: Topped the league in the same category with a staggering 52.9% of its drives ending with an offensive score.

The good news is fantasy players have every reason to hope that a coordinator that pops off at a better rate than Steph Curry in the bay area will be able to pan some fantasy gold.   The 49ers are team A in the scenario above, and team B is your NFC Champion Falcons.   Kyle Shanahan’s best performance was amplified by the steady hand of Matt Ryan, the breathtaking talent of Julio Jones, and one of the league’s deepest backfields.   It is a fool’s errand to attempt to parse exactly how much is Shanahan and how much production stems from the array of talent at his disposal, but consider his scoring performance across three franchises and his other five seasons at the helm of the offense:

Falcons

Overall Offense/Percent of Scoring Drives

17th overall/34.5 %

Browns

27th overall/28.0 %

Redskins

27th overall/ 27.6

6th overall/39.3

21st overall/30.9

Shanahan comes out at a six year average of 35.53% despite being tethered to the QB play of luminaries like Donovan McNabb 2.0, RG3, Brian Hoyer, and Johnny Manziel.   So it is not beyond the realm of possibility that he can work with the QB Hoyer/TBD of the SF 49ers.  35.53 would represent a 60% improvement over the scoring output of the 2016 49ers and would have been good for 18th in the league last year, nestled firmly between the Bengals and Ravens.  If, however, you want to strip 2016 as an outlier not truly indicative of Shanahan’s prowess, you are left with a scoring percentage of 32% over five seasons, pushing Shanahan down into the 2016 territory of the Bucs and Texans, but still a nearly 50% increase in production for the 49ers.  At the team level this suggest that the 309 total points produced by the 49ers could jump significantly.   Couple this with the Shanahan tendency to turn to his running backs in the red zone, and one player stands out as most set to benefit from Shanahan’s alchemy: Mr. Carlos Hyde.

Hyde’s new Dr. Jekyl engineered 18 high-leverage rushing attempts for Devonta Freeman inside the opponents 5 yard line, and targeted him 6 more times inside the 10, for a total of 24.   All year Carlos Hyde saw 6 rushing attempts inside the 5 and exactly 1 target inside the 10 yard line.   Hyde was able to ride significant volume in the Chip Kelly’s attack to a RB18 overall finish in PPR scoring formats 14th in standard.  Two more scores would have vaulted Hyde into RB1 status on the season.  It is time for RSO GM’s to follow Kyle Shanahan, fantasy prospector, out West to pan for the fantasy gold of a top 10 running back.


Luke @FantasyDocOC is husband, father, doctoral student, and teacher slowly building a reality dynasty league comprised entirely of daughters. He writes OC’s Gamplan for Reality Sports Online.  Following in the footsteps of Saint Francis, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” CUA. Hoya Saxa.

More Analysis by Luke O'Connell