No. 4: TE Jimmy Graham (-1 from 2012, 2-time list member)
Credit: (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jimmy Graham had his problems in 2012. He led all tight ends with 15 drops. But he did so with a bum wrist, one that required offseason surgery.
And he still was the eighth-rated tight end by Pro Football Focus. How important was he? He was third on the team in receiving yards and had the most catches. His nine touchdowns were one less than Marques Colston.
Injured or not, Graham is a matchup nightmare for teams and has turned into one of quarterback Drew Brees’ go-to players. Graham was tied for 13th in the NFL with 85 catches and his 982 yards were 22nd most in the league. That’s overall, not just among tight ends.
There’s more – and more reasons Graham is so important for the Saints – Brees completed 26 passes to the tight end on third down, eighth-most in the NFL.
Since 2011, when Graham broke out, his 184 catches are among the most in the NFL. His 25 touchdowns since 2010 are second most among tight ends.
Graham is the future of the Saints’ offense, the young player whom Brees can build with and coach Sean Payton can make mismatches around.
Graham is heading into the final year of his rookie contract, one that will pay him $575,000. It’s safe to say he’s being underpaid