Last season did not end how Jimmy Graham envisioned after he was traded from New Orleans to Seattle. On November 29, he tore his patellar tendon in a game against the Steelers and was knocked out for the rest of the season, and most of the offseason, and this preseason. Graham is supposedly ready to get back onto the gridiron and contribute to this Seahawks offense this Sunday against the Dolphins. However, don’t throw him in your fantasy football lineup just yet. There’s a lot going against Graham, even outside the obvious conditioning issue, that may make you want to pump your brakes on putting him in your starting lineup.
First, there’s 2015 Jimmy Graham. He wasn’t all that good. People forget just how bad he was before he went down. In the ten complete games, he played, he mustered only two touchdowns. He was on a full-season pace of 70 receptions and 880 yards, which put him in Travis Kelce territory for receptions and yards, but fully lacking in the touchdowns department.
Given the nature of the TE position, the touchdowns are key to fantasy value. Graham had little to no fantasy football value even before going down in 2015. In the 11 games he played, he finished 11, 16, 3, 21, 24, 4, 22, 12, 23, 19, 14. In a standard twelve-team league he was not even a backend TE1 seven times in eleven games.
He was outside the top ten in all but two of his games and was outside of the top twenty more times than he was in the top ten. He was not good. He was flat out bad last year, even before getting hurt.
The rumors that he is fully recovered from his patellar tendon tear are dubious, at best. This is the same injury that took out Victor Cruz, a much lighter and agile player. Compensating for the tendon caused Cruz to go down and miss an entire extra season. Graham has been participating in drills all offseason but has only been “full go” in practice for a couple of weeks. He hasn’t faced real competition yet since his knee injury, and we can only guess how that will go down. He could easily take a rough hit and go out after registering a goose egg for your squad. ESPN’s Stephania Bell chronicled the difficulty returning from patellar tendon tears to pre-tear forms. There isn’t anything to make us think that Graham will be the exception, not the rule. Bell outlines four prior tears in the NFL since 2010, and their results are uninspiring. It’s doubtful he contributes immediately.
The last reason you should sit Jimmy Graham Sunday: the Seahawks matured and grew as an offense without him. Doug Baldwin and Russell Wilson are now sympatico, Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael are set to battle for the RB1 job, Tyler Lockett is poised for a breakout: all developments that occurred without Graham’s presence. It’s likely an attempt to fully re-integrate Graham into the offense will throw a wrench in the whole machine, since everything started to go much smoother as time went on last year. It won’t be as easy as plugging Graham into the “new” Seahawks offense; he will need to work his way back in.
All this is even assuming he plays more than a handful of snaps, which isn’t a given. Keep Jimmy Graham on your bench this weekend.