My online dictionary says a "domino effect" is a series
of similar or related events occurring as a direct and inevitable
result of one initial event.
Jimmy Graham's fantasy value takes a dip
In this case, we are evaluating the March 10, 2015 trade of All-Pro
tight end Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints to the Seattle
Seahawks. The consequences of the 2,600-mile journey by one of
the best tight ends in football are more than just a change in
uniform and location for Graham and his family.
In New Orleans, he was part of one of the most prolific passing
offenses in NFL history. His old quarterback, Drew Brees, averaged
659 passing attempts, 5,192 passing yards and 40 touchdown passes
each season since 2011.
Graham certainly collected his share of the "fantasy booty."
He averaged 1,099 yards and 12 touchdowns per season since his
first full year as a starter (2011). And please note that's also
while starting just 45 of a possible 64 games due to injuries.
In Seattle, Graham probably won't reach those levels. That's because
the Seahawks are the most run-heavy team in the league. In 2014
they rushed the ball 525 times (second most) while passing it
just 454 times (fewest). That's a 53-47 ratio of run-to-pass.
That wasn't a fluke. In 2013 the run-pass percentage was 57-43
and it was 58-42 in 2012. While the percentages are getting closer
to 50-50 and with Graham might actually reach that point, it's
nowhere near the Saints level of passing.
Look at the FFToday
projections and you can see we are expecting a significant
drop from Graham's "average" season. The predicted numbers are;
75 receptions, 877 yards, eight touchdowns and 135.7 fantasy points.
This trade, however, changes fantasy values for at least a dozen
players and not just on the two teams involved in the deal. Let's
take a look at these changes.
Seattle Seahawks -
Wilson - The addition of an elite tight end can only
enhance Wilson's fantasy value. The Seahawks were one of the league's
least efficient teams in the red zone last season, scoring touchdowns
on just 51.5 percent of their attempts (20th out of 32 teams).
Wilson's red zone offense should improve significantly now that
Graham is the focal point of the passing game.
Lynch - Lynch has scored 48 rushing touchdowns over
the past four seasons. Thirty-four of them (70.8 percent) were
from inside the 10-yard line. During that same timeframe, Graham
has caught 25 touchdowns of 10-yards or less. Something has to
give and our guess is both see reduced totals.
Willson - Willson led the Seahawks tight ends in targets,
receptions, yards and touchdowns last season. Barring an injury
to Graham, he'll be invisible next season.
Baldwin - Baldwin was the top receiving target for
Wilson last season catching 66-of-98 targets for 825 yards and
three touchdowns. That's WR3 material and it won't get better
Kearse - Kearse saw the second-most targets last season
(69), but his job in 2015, along with speedster Paul Richardson
(ACL) when he returns, will be to stretch the defense to allow
Graham more room to work over the middle.
Hauschka - Repeating an earlier statistic, the Seahawks
were 20th of 32 teams in red zone touchdown scoring. Leaving a
lot of short field goal attempts for the place-kicker. The addition
of Graham's elite scoring talent could cost Hauschka up to five
New Orleans Saints -
Brees - Brees has lost his security blanket and his
go-to-guy near the goal line. He's not without weapons, however,
with Brandin Cooks, Marques Colston and a young tight end in Josh
Hill, but it appears management wants to be more balanced between
running and passing in 2015. It's not a horrible idea. OK, it's
pretty bad for Brees' fantasy owners, but the last time the Saints
were even remotely balanced between the run and pass was 2009
and they won the Super Bowl. Sorry, no 5,000-yards seasons in
2015. How about 4,026-yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions?
Ingram - Ingram came into his own last season, rushing
for a career-high 964 yards and nine touchdowns in just 13 games
(nine starts). The Saints added C.J. Spiller, but he shouldn’t
interfere with Ingram's touchdown totals as he'll primarily be
a third-down back. Ingram should be the main red zone weapon and
ought to post 1,100 yards and a dozen touchdowns in 2015 ... if
he can stay healthy.
Hill - Talk about pressure! Replacing Graham will be
an impossible and thankless task. Hill's value will skyrocket
though, because he does have talent. Not Graham talent, but with
a great quarterback under center he should end up with about 85
targets and a spot in the top-10 at his position.
Cooks - The second-year receiver was already set for
significantly improved numbers in 2015, but with Graham in Seattle,
he'll take on an even more important roll. He’s going to have
to add scoring to his role as deep receiving threat.
Colston - The "old man," (OK, he's really only 32-years-old)
is going to have to find the fountain of youth. Colston has to
take over the role as Brees' security blanket. If he can stay
healthy, he can post close to 1,000-yards even in the new "limited"
passing offense of the Saints.
Hopkins - Hauschka's loss is Hopkins' gain. New Orleans
was seventh in red zone efficiency last season (60 percent), but
with Graham gone, that could take a nosedive. Saints' kickers
attempted just 15 field goals from inside the 40 last season,
but we expect that number to rise.
Gronkowski - Outside of New Orleans and Seattle, the
Graham deal has the greatest effect on the Patriots tight end.
2014 FFToday preseason fantasy projections had Graham 25.1
points better than No. 2 Julius Thomas while Thomas was 22.8 points
over a still-injured Gronkowski. Graham went at No. 8, with Thomas
and Gronkowski, No. 27 and No. 31, respectively. This season's
FFToday projections show a healthy Gronkowski the top dog by a
huge margin (37.2 points). No other position has a margin between
the top-two options as big and could warrant taking "Gronk" even
higher than normal, possibly the middle in the first round (his
current ADP is early 2nd round, pick No. 15 in many mock drafts).
Olsen - Graham's expected drop in production is likely
to leave him at a level close to that of the Panthers' tight end.
But most novice fantasy owners won't see it that way; they only
remember the "big names" and smarter owners will wait another
two rounds for Olsen or even Travis Kelce.
All these changes ... from one trade involving just one skill
Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.