What's wrong with Jimmy Graham this year? If you're purely interested in his performance as a fantasy football player, you may not think he's been that bad. He's on pace for about 70 receptions for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns this year. Not bad for a tight end, right? But if you're a Saints fan and you've watched the games, you know he's had a miserable year. Consider that Graham is currently on pace to produce 28% less receptions and 38% less yards than last year. Should we expect him to set record breaking numbers every season? Of course not. But this feels like a baseball hitter following up a borderline .400 type hitting season (aka record breaking) with a mediocre .250 campaign. And before you start blaming his bum ankle, the problems this season started long before that. Statistically it gets a lot worse.
Jimmy Graham is currently second in the entire league with 7 drops. Only a rookie running back has more, as Doug Martin of the Bucs currently has 8 drops. If you do the math factoring in his receptions, that means of 38 "catchable balls" Graham has dropped 18.4% of them. That is astronomical. Many of those have been on third down and absolutely killed drives and any momentum the Saints' offense could get. Dropping 18.4% of passes would have been good enough for 5th worse hands from all skill players last season. The only players worse last year were household suckers Arrelious Benn, Dane Sanzenbacher, Danario Alexander and Greg Little. Who? Yeah, exactly. That's just how miserable of a time Graham has had securing the football.
It's hard to say if the problem is mental, physical, or a lack of effort. But if you're watching Graham play you can see like I do that he's running lazy routes, not looking the football in, blocking terribly and going for the highlight reel catch unnecessarily. It's almost like he wants to up the ante and go for a higher degree of difficulty. In fact, I'd go as far as to say he's been a liability on the field moreso than a positive. The Saints' offense has performed better without him on the field. PFF agrees, though just slightly. They grade every play with a +/- point designation, and currently Graham has a total grade of -0.1. So they see him as basically a wash being on the field, or maybe ever so slightly a liability. Compare that to last year, where Graham's grade through 7 games was +15.1. By season's end he was at +22.2. When you look at it that way, the drop off is even more severe than the stats suggest.
We know what we are going to get from the defense at this point. They have consistently yielded 500+ yards and stopping any offense is essentially a foregone impossibility. So we're left hoping the Saints can match the defense's ineptness with greatness to give this team a shot at winning some games. For that to happen Graham is going to have to get back to his level of 2011, because right now he couldn't be farther away from it. In fact, Graham may just be having the absolute most miserable year of his career. The good news is it's not too late to turn his season around and put this miserable stretch in the rear view mirror. With Darren Sproles absent Monday night against the Eagles, and possibly longer, now would be a good time to step up his game.