There was a lot of movement this NFL offseason. That means there will be many different teams and players impacted in the fantasy football landscape. I’ve put together this series “Familiar Faces in New Places,” and you can view the rest of the series by clicking on the links below:
Now, let’s take a look at some familiar tight ends in new places:
Jimmy Graham, Seattle Seahawks
Long considered part of the 1-2 best TE duo, along with New England’s Rob Gronkowski, Graham was sent packing after some acrimonious contract negotiations and availability issues.
Now with Seattle, the fantasy question is how much production does Graham lose by leaving one of the top passing offenses for a team predicated on ball control?
The Seahawks were only bested by the run, run, run and defense Houston Texans in fewest percentage of team plays that were passes and they were dead last in raw pass plays per game.
They ran 28.1 pass plays per game as compared to the 41.2 pass plays run by Graham’s former team, the Saints.
Seahawks tight ends were targeted a meager 80 times last season in total as compared to 168 for the Saints, 121 of which went to Graham.
New Orleans also had two receivers get targeted, along with Graham over 80 times by themselves (Colston, Stills) while only Doug Baldwin (90) had more than 80 targets for the Seahawks.
Obviously, the Seahawks didn’t trade for Graham so they could use him like Luke Willson, but at the same time it’s a team that has consistently, and it should be noted very successfully, finished at the bottom in pass plays per game.
In fact, they’ve finished down there every season since Russell Wilson has been the starting QB, which of course coincides with the presence of Marshawn Lynch as main chains mover.
Summary: Graham’s usage will sink, for sure, and it’s reasonable to assume that he will supplant Baldwin as the top target for Wilson, but I would expect that to mean more than the 90 or so targets that have led the team for every season since Pete Carroll took over in 2010.
Julius Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars
Much like Graham, Thomas goes from a highly efficient passing team in Denver to a team where there are few things happy about their offense in Jacksonville.
But will that mean less or more action for Thomas? Last season, Thomas had 60 targets in 13 games with Denver. The Broncos had so many weapons, it was easy for things to get really spread around. Thomas had four of those 13 games yield four targets or less and never had more than eight. By comparison, Jimmy Graham had seven games of more than 10 targets and only two where he had fewer than five.
Jacksonville only threw to their tight ends 79 times last season, but lost their main possession receiver, Cecil Shorts to free agency, and he accounted for 102 targets that Thomas is going to be asked to pick up.
Jacksonville ran four fewer pass plays per game than the Broncos last season, but was fourth in % of their plays that were passes, whereas the Broncos were 17th.
With no primary WR to demand the targets, Thomas is in position to exceed the volume he was getting in Denver. The flip side to that though, is that quantity is not quality. Blake Bortles is a talented guy, but he was the lowest rated QB last season by PFF metrics even though the Jags were middle of the pack in rated pass protection.
This led to a league low 15.6 points per game, whereas the Broncos were fourth with 29.1. So while the riches were much divided in Denver, there were plenty to go around, whereas even being the main man in Jacksonville doesn’t provide much scoring opportunity.
Summary: Thomas will get more targets and receptions per game, but unless Blake Bortles and the Jaguars offense gets a lot better real quick, it won’t amount to a lot of scoring, thus lowering his per game fantasy value from last season.
Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins
The Cleveland Browns, where Cameron was employed previously, were an average passing team despite having the second best pass blocking in the league. Cameron is one of the better downfield TE targets in the league, finishing third in yards per pass route run, behind Gronk and Travis Kelce of the Chiefs.
Cameron has major availability issues, missing eight games in 2011, three in 2012, a game and half in 2013 (high point!) before missing six games last season.
Miami ran about six more pass plays per game than Cleveland and Ryan Tannehill, while not being a top 10 QB, was much better than Brian Hoyer and the rest of the Cleveland QBs. And Miami targeted their TEs 111 times last season and Charles Clay, last year’s TE target leader, has moved on, as has their main possession receiver, Brandon Gibson.
Summary: Jordan Cameron has a great opportunity for a top 5 TE season in Miami, but only if he’s able to stay on the field, a major question for someone who has never played all 16 games.
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills
You know who was the top rated receiving tight end to change teams this offseason, by Pro Football Focus’ metrics? Well, I guess you figured out that it was Clay who bested Thomas, Cameron and Graham for this highly niched honor.
Clay performed well in Miami in an all-around role and is a decent downfield threat from the TE position, finishing tied with Antonio Gates for yards run per pass route.
Clay moves onto Buffalo, who has a murky offensive situation brewing with new OC Chan Gailey calling the plays. They have EJ Manuel, Tyrod Taylor and Matt Cassel battling it out for the QB job, meaning Clay is looking at a low rated passer and very short passes from his QB. Also, Clay will be battling target-hog Percy Harvin for those short passes, a battle that Harvin rarely loses in his career.
Summary: Clay is a talented guy, but the Bills QB situation and the presence of three highly targeted WR threats (Harvin, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods) means that there is a small piece to a small pie left for Clay to perform week to week.
Owen Daniels, Denver Broncos
Replacing Julius Thomas in Denver will fall on Owen Daniels, a TE that new Broncos OC Gary Kubiak knows quite a bit about during their time together in Houston. During that run, Daniels was consistently among the target leaders at the TE position, even going above 100 target during two of those seasons (2008, 2012).
The problem, as is the problem with Jordan Cameron, is missed games. 2008 was the last full season Daniels has played, but he did go 15 games for the Ravens last season and delivered a top 20 TE fantasy season.
In Denver, he’ll likely see less than Julius Thomas saw in terms of targets, but still enough to snag 3-4 catches for 40-50 yards per game and considering the Broncos score so much, he should get some of the 12 vacated TDs that Thomas had as well.