Jimmy Graham has long been, for four years now actually, either the #1 or #2 tight end option in fantasy football. Here is his production the last four seasons with the Saints.

2011: 99 receptions, 1,310 yards, 11 TDs

2012: 85-982-9

2013: 86-1,215-16

2014: 85-889-10

Four year average: 89 receptions, 1,099 yards, 11.5 TDs

He’s no longer a member of the Saints leaving a massive void for the Saints to fill in 2015.


Sean Payton is back as the field general of the Saints, his 10th season with the club. He knows how to run an offense. He knows how to best utilize his players. The last three seasons the offense has been top-10 in points each season and top-4 in yards each campaign. They have also been top-4 each season in pass attempts and top-3 in passing yards. OC Pete Carmichael is around for his 7th season and he too is quite the offensive mind. We know it. When those minds are involved, and Drew Brees is spreading the ball around, the offense is going to put up copious amounts of yards and points.

The assumption is that the loss of passing pieces, including Graham, will cause the Saints to run the ball more this season. Well, maybe. According to this report from ESPN it sounds like Sean Payton isn’t so sure that there will be a huge increase in carries in ‘15. “Each year what we’ve tried to do, honestly, is take our personnel and apply it the best way we see fit to move the football,” Payton said. “So I don’t envision this drastic change, if you will… We’re going to to try to move the football and score. And some weeks it may be running the ball more, some weeks it may be throwing the ball more. That’s just the truth.” Should also be pointed out that the Saints ran the ball 406 times last season, the 4th most in the Brees/Payton era.

Ideally the Saints will run the ball more in 2015 pairing Mark Ingram with C.J. Spiller with Khiry Robinson around as well. It’s not like they are going to turn into the Seahawks though, so don’t go overboard with this line of thought.


Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks


Kevin Brock, Alex Smith

The Saints also placed a waiver claim on Tim Wright but were unsuccessful (he was claimed by the Bucs whom he played for in 2013).


Everyone in the fantasy game is hoping that Josh Hill becomes the direct replacement for Graham and goes on to a top-5 fantasy season in 2015. It seems with each passing day that the odds of that happening are diminishing. Here’s what we know.

Josh Hill missed more than a week of practice with an undisclosed injury.

ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett strongly suggested that Hill will not take on the old Jimmy Graham role. 

Triplett also reported that the Saints will use a committee to replace Graham. 

On August 10th the Saints released their depth chart and it wasn’t Hill who was listed as the top tight end as veteran Ben Watson was listed at the top. 

Hill is 6’5”, 250 lbs and pretty darn athletic. He’s also a good football player who brings versatility with his ability to block, catch passes and play on special teams. However, if Watson is being looked on as the better blocking option to aid the Saints line then the Saints will have to run a bunch of two tight end sets to get Hill out there consistently. How often will the duo of ends being on the field at the same time? “It just depends on how much two tight end sets we’re in, how much sub (packages),” HC Payton said. “I couldn’t say specifically that he is going to have 25 percent more playing time but certainly his playing time will increase… We think [Hill] is a guy that can run and stretch the defense. A lot of it will be by game plan and what we are trying to do.” 

All of that should strongly suggest to you that drafting Hill to be your unquestioned starter, with the expectation that he is going to be a top-5 TE is nuts. Moreover, expecting him to be a top-10 tight end isn’t a lock.

Some other data.

Graham wasn’t 100 percent last season for large periods of time, and in six games last season Graham appeared on the field in less than 70 percent of the snaps the offense ran. Did Hill assert himself in those games last season? Hell no. Hill had just one game with three receptions last season. He had zero games with more than three targets. He only had two games with 25 receiving yards. He simply did nothing other than scored five times, and two of those were in his final game.

There’s also this. In seven of the last nine seasons the Saints’ running backs have posted the most receptions of any team in football from that position. That doesn’t necessarily bode well for Hill given that the club brought in pass catching wizard C.J. Spiller in the backfield.

Watson is 34 years old, and despite being listed atop the depth chart at TE for the Saints that’s because of his blocking ability and that reason alone. He’s scored three or fewer times each of the past five seasons. Only twice in nine seasons has he caught 49 passes. The last two years he’s caught a total of 39 passes for the Saints. He simply doesn’t draw targets, catch passes, or score, though ESPN reports that Watson could see his target total increase (see above link). Even if his usage doubles we’re still talking about 40 receptions. Big whoop. He’s a fantasy non-entity and all he can really do is to sap the production of Hill. Watson has no standalone value.

Orson Charles hopes to lock down the third tight end spot with the team though he will begin the year with a one game suspension for a road rage incident last April. He will battle Alex Smith for the spot.


Hill is the tight end to own with the Saints. The odds of him matching even one of the fantasy numbers that Jimmy Graham averaged the last four seasons are miniscule (89 receptions, 1,099 yards, 11.5 TDs).

The chance that Hill emerges as an every week player who is a top-5 option at tight end for the season is small.

Hill is more likely than not to have a few nice games, and a top-10 finish at the position is certainly possible. It might be an uneven, bumpy road though with his point total buoyed by touchdowns way more than receptions and yards, so don’t expect consistency if you call out his name on draft day.


Ray Flowers can be heard Monday through Thursday at 8 PM EDT on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87). You can also hear Ray Sunday nights at 9 PM EDT on the channel talking fantasy sports. Follow Ray’s work at Fantasy Alarm and on Twitter (@baseballguys).