Now that Jimmy Graham is at the top of the TE depth chart, will he ascend to the superstar status some predicted for him after the Saints drafted him last year? The story on him out of college was that he was very talented but raw after only playing football one year at Miami. The term "project" was used a lot and you can see some of those scouting reports here, here, and here. Of the three, the one excerpted below seems to have come closest to the mark established by Graham in his rookie season:
His lack of experience is obviously a concern, but the history of power forwards playing tight end is a long one and most NFL teams will not hesitate to take him just because he only played one year in college. This is a smart player who has all the physical tools to succeed. Graham had a successful NFL Combine and was one of the faster and more athletic tight ends in Indianapolis. While there are certainly two types of tight ends these days (and Graham has a lot of work to do before he can become a solid blocker), he will be a great vertical threat for any team who is still searching for a tight end that can stretch the field. If Graham falls past round three, it will be a surprise.
Now that Jeremy Shockey has been released by the Saints, many are saying this is more about how Graham has developed than it is about Shockey. Jeff Duncan is one those people:
Graham emerged as a bona fide playmaker in the second half of the season and effectively replaced Shockey in many red-zone and nickel packages down the stretch.
Graham's production and playing time soared in the second half of the season after he adjusted to the pro game and became comfortable with the Saints' complex playbook. In the first eight games, Graham played only 39 snaps and caught just five passes for 49 yards. In the final eight games, he caught 26 passes for 307 yards and five touchdowns.
Top Jimmy's emergence in the second half of the season was very noticeable. Coach Payton and the team obviously developed greater confidence in him as the season progressed. They seemed to make him a bigger part of the game plan with each passing week.
Now that we know Jimmy has the skills to stretch the field and make plays in the passing game, the only question is can he become a better blocker in the run game? Based on the progress he made during last season, I think he can. Now he has an entire offseason to work on his blocking weaknesses and I'm sure that will be a point of emphasis for him in training camp and OTAs this summer (depending on how the CBA talks go).
For those who might have been confused by my title for this post (jeff?), whenever I think of Jimmy Graham, this classic Van Halen song is usually the soundtrack I have playing deep within the depths of my demented mind.