Who was that man on the field in Seattle on Sunday? Could it have been Jimmy Graham? You know, the same Jimmy Graham that played basketball at University of Miami and starred for the New Orleans Saints. He’s the same Jimmy Graham that challenged Rob Gronkowski as the top tight end in Fantasy football. Yes, someone ACTUALLY challenged Gronk for the top spot.
After not knowing how to use him last year and ending his season with a torn patellar tendon, his future was in doubt.
But Sunday, he gave us a reminder of the type of player he can be. Russell Wilson, when under duress, chucked the ball in the air on a third-down play, hoping that Graham could channel his inner basketball player and beat the opposition for it. Graham did, and he hauled in six catches on nine targets for 100 yards and a touchdown.
What does this mean going forward? Well, let’s take a closer look at Graham and other fun Fantasy facts heading into Week 4 of the NFL season.
Can He Be Trusted?
The nine targets that Graham saw Sunday were the most he’s seen in 2016, and they are the third-most since joining the Seahawks a season ago. As for the 100 yards, they are the second-most of his Seattle career behind his 140-yard performance against the Panthers in Week 6 of the 2015 season.
Last year, Graham had three big-ish games; the aforementioned 140-yard scoreless performance, going six for 51 and a score in Week 1, and then a Week 3 performance in which he hauled in seven receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown.
If you’re expecting a big performance for Graham this week, you may want to contain your excitement. Following his Week 1 performance, he caught one pass for 11 yards and zero touchdowns on two targets. Following his Week 3 performance, he caught four balls for 29 yards and zero scores on five targets. Finally, following his big yardage output in Week 6, he caught just two balls for 31 yards and zero scores on five targets.
Will he finally put together back-to-back solid performances this time around?
No Need To Lock Up Lockett
One person who may not be hoping…OK, he’s fine with it, but his Fantasy owners aren’t… that Graham returns to form is Tyler Lockett. Per Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar, Lockett has been out-snapped by Paul Richardson over the past two weeks, which makes sense given the injury that Lockett has been dealing with.
But even worse news for Lockett – by biggest avoid for wide receiver this year – is that he performed alarmingly worse with Graham in the lineup than he did with Graham off the field.
Lockett with Graham in 2015:
11 games, 37 targets, 28 receptions, three touchdowns and 346 yards (did not eclipse 100 yards once and had two games with zero yards)
Lockett without Graham in 2015:
5 games, 32 targets, 23 receptions, three touchdowns, 318 yards (eclipsed 100 yards once and fewest yardage in a game was 33)
In Week 2 this year, Lockett caught four balls for 99 yards, while Graham was uninvolved. Is it any coincidence that Lockett had zeroes in Graham’s breakthrough game?
Don’t rush to cut Lockett yet, but if he’s the last man on your bench, so be it.
Vontaze Burfict is returning to the field Thursday night against Miami, and while the Dolphins are more like Kwame, Gi, Linka and Wheeler from Captain Planet instead of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson and Tully Blanchard of Four Horsemen fame with their four running back approach, any success they were about to have just became that much more difficult.
From Week 8 in 2015 on, when Burfict made his season debut, the Bengals allowed just five rushing touchdowns. One of those was a Tavon Austin rush. The other four came from C.J. Anderson, DeAngelo Williams and Bruce Miller.
In the six games without Burfict, the Bengals’ defense allowed more than 100 yards rushing in a game four times, including 200 yards allowed to the Seahawks. With Burfict in the lineup, teams eclipsed 100 yards twice, with the high of 116 yards coming in his return to the lineup.
This year, Matt Forte and Williams both carved up the Bengals for more than 100 yards, respectively. With Burfict back in the lineup, it’s time to look at other options in the running game when your backs are facing last season’s No. 2 ranked defense in Cincinnati.
We went over the pace that Mike Evans was on last year, as he’s on pace to match DeAndre Hopkins’ targets from a year ago. With that volume means that his quarterback, second-year starter Jameis Winston, is going to be throwing … a lot. So far, through three games, Winston has 142 attempts, which leads the league.
For a per-game amount, Winston is at 47.3 passes per game. Extrapolating that over the course of 16 games, Winston is on pace to attempt 757 passes this season. That 757 would crush the previous record for pass attempts in a season (727 by Matthew Stafford in 2012) by 30.
In Stafford’s 2012 season, he ended up completing 435 passes on 727 attempts for 4,967 yards, 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
Winston is on pace in 2016 to complete 458 passes on 757 attempts for 4,955 yards, 42 touchdowns and 32 interceptions. The 458 completions would be second to only Drew Brees in NFL history, who owns seven of the top eight spots on the all-time list.
With Doug Martin hurt and Evans producing at his current rate, Winston could be in for a huge volume year.
Oh, did I mention for the Fantasy playoffs that Winston has the Saints twice with the Cowboys sandwiched in between? When the Winston owner drops him after his Week 4 and 5 games against the Broncos and Panthers heading into Tampa’s bye week, pick him up and save him and his enormous volume for the Fantasy playoffs.