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Jimmy Graham, A Contrarian's View.

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ATM: Don’t Sleep on Jimmy Graham Signing

212bf710fe9dfd56c9762bf769cdf891?s=16&d= Andrew Dannehy | March 24th, 2020

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Although the Chicago Bears signing Jimmy Graham was largely seen as one of the strangest free agent signings of the early period, don’t be surprised if he makes a big impact. Too many are judging the big tight end on his raw stat line in 2019, without looking at context. Even more people are using lazy narratives. Yes, Graham’s statistics were down. The 38 catches and 447 yards he had in 2019 were both the second-lowest totals of his career. But Graham’s decreased production was more about a lack of opportunity.

Outside of maybe quarterback, no position was more impacted by the scheme change the Packers underwent last year than tight end. TEs have certainly had success in the style of offense Matt LaFleur runs but they’re also asked to block more. If there is one knock on Graham that has followed him his whole career it’s that he’s a horrendous blocker. As a result, he went from playing 74 percent of the snaps in 2018 to 58 percent in 2019. Blocking tight end Marcedes Lewis saw an increase from 18 percent to 45.

Graham caught 63.3 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2019, which is in line with his career average, as was his 11.8 yards per catch.

The narrative that has been spun is that Graham can no longer run.  While he’s certainly not as fast as he was when the New Orleans Saints essentially used him as a wide receiver, he can still get down the field. According to Sharp Football, the Packers had 12 explosive plays from the tight end position, accomplishing them at the eighth-best rate in the league (the Bears were 32nd with one explosive play from the tight end position). Of those 12, Graham had nine and had the ninth-best rate at the position.

 

The other top two tight ends in free agency, Eric Ebron and Austin Hooper ranked 21st and 22nd, respectively. (By the way, doesn’t anybody wonder why a generally intelligent GM in Chris Ballard just let Ebron walk without even considering bringing him back? Just throwing that out there.)

The Bears need more explosive plays and they need a tight end who can get down the field, Graham can still do that and he showed it in the playoffs.

In the two shots below, you can see examples of Graham beating linebackers for big gains. It’s important to note the time it took because, while both plays were relatively well-blocked, neither were the result of horrendous pass rush or broken plays. Both came within the concept of the play, as it was designed.


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Graham isn’t the player he once was. He has become stiff and his blocking has, somehow, gotten worse. But he can still get down the field and make plays in the passing game. That’s what the Bears need from the position. If the goal is to become more explosive, signing Graham accomplishes that for the Bears.

 

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Posted (edited)

I posted this as a separate item because based on so much discontent over his signing I think it deserves another look.

No doubt Jimmy Graham at age 33 is not the same Jimmy Graham he was at age 23 or maybe even age 30 but just how bad is he?  If the media is comparing him only to the Jimmy Graham of old then quite naturally we won't measure up, they report that, every Tom, Richard, and Hairy *** picks up on it and THAT become the narrative we see most often in forums.  But is it accurate?

Andrew Dannehy takes an opposite viewpoint in pointing that while Graham may not be what he once was there's still some gas in his tank enough to make him a solid upgrade for our TE crew.  And has for his reputed lack of speed just how much of that does he need if he knows how to read coverages and get open deep as he was able to do in both of these highlights from last years playoffs.

So.....as I've posted before I'm not necessarily defending the cost because I don't know how that was negotiated and neither does anyone else but I can very easily rationalize why Pace made this move even for $9 mil gtd.  Jimmy Graham is still a legit receiving threat who must be accounted for by opponents which is one hell of a lot more than we can say about last years menagerie of TEs.

Edited by soulman

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3 hours ago, soulman said:

Jimmy Graham is still a legit receiving threat who must be accounted for by opponents which is one hell of a lot more than we can say about last years menagerie of TEs.

True. and with a fully healthy TBurton we can now get back to doing things at TE. JG is always healthy ! durable. if we got graham for a vet min deal everyone would be singing his praises. Dude can still play ....iirc, he had a big TD against us last yr 

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JG is actually always hurt of late, he just plays through a lot of things that cause other people to sit.  That has effected his play and numbers as well.

I think he is a bit underrated as a player and doesn’t deserve hate he is getting for signing a too large contract from a team perspective  (Three times now he has pulled that off).  Obviously he wants as much money as he can get and it isn’t his fault people are willing to give it to him.  

 He is actually an above average NFL TE still and an upgrade for certain for Bears.  

He still makes less than Burton.  

 

 

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JP Holtz had a better explosive play rate than Graham. It's not a very meaningful stat.

Graham isn't a good player anymore because he's aging and has lost the athleticism that allowed him to flex out as a move TE. He's probably better than what the Bears had last season, but not by much.

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5 hours ago, abstract_thought said:

JP Holtz had a better explosive play rate than Graham. It's not a very meaningful stat.

Graham isn't a good player anymore because he's aging and has lost the athleticism that allowed him to flex out as a move TE. He's probably better than what the Bears had last season, but not by much.

he's 33, not 37 He lost his athleticism ??   I don't remember any lingering injury or surgery where he lost significant measure 

JG and Burton will more or less be splitting snaps ... this will keep them both healthy.

what's more, In our system Graham would have at least doubled anything we got from a TE last season! 

'not by much'   cmon 

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5 hours ago, abstract_thought said:

JP Holtz had a better explosive play rate than Graham. It's not a very meaningful stat.

Graham isn't a good player anymore because he's aging and has lost the athleticism that allowed him to flex out as a move TE. He's probably better than what the Bears had last season, but not by much.

Based on just 7 receptions for 91 yards the longest of which was a single 30 yard reception that's hard to believe.  What's your source?

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/H/HoltJ.01.htm

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9 minutes ago, abstract_thought said:

I used the same source used in the article.

Where is Holtz listed?  https://www.sharpfootballstats.com/explosive-player-rankings--offense-.html

I see Graham (@ 13%) listed between Kittle (@ 14%) and Kelce (@ 12%) but no listing for Holtz among any of the TEs.

Not unless you're saying one 30 yard reception out of 7 catches (14%) is your source.

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44 minutes ago, soulman said:

Where is Holtz listed?  https://www.sharpfootballstats.com/explosive-player-rankings--offense-.html

I see Graham (@ 13%) listed between Kittle (@ 14%) and Kelce (@ 12%) but no listing for Holtz among any of the TEs.

Not unless you're saying one 30 yard reception out of 7 catches (14%) is your source.

Lower the minimum number of plays and you'll see Holtz there.

I'm not trying to argue that Holtz is better than Graham. I'm trying to demonstrate the flaws in a metric that only shows how many 20+ yard receptions a player makes. What about catch rate, average YAC, yards per route run, DVOA, or any of the dozen other stats that are far more widespread? This article is the definition of "you can use statistics to make any argument you want."

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, abstract_thought said:

Lower the minimum number of plays and you'll see Holtz there.

I'm not trying to argue that Holtz is better than Graham. I'm trying to demonstrate the flaws in a metric that only shows how many 20+ yard receptions a player makes. What about catch rate, average YAC, yards per route run, DVOA, or any of the dozen other stats that are far more widespread? This article is the definition of "you can use statistics to make any argument you want."

Uh nope....that's not how it's done.  The reason for valid stats being based on a minimum number of occurrences is so people can't just lower that number and claim something that isn't valid.  For instance, a batter who gets one hit in his only major league at bat isn't seen as a lifetime 1.000 hitter.  You really can't just make up the way you use stats and call them valid.  I've used statistics in my profession every day of my life and not all stats are invalid or used simply to make "any argument you want". That is pure bull**** unless they're twisted to fit a preconception like you did.

One argument made here is that Graham can't run anymore yet that particular stat shows that based on the number of occurrences (in this case targets) Jimmy Graham is still capable of making explosive plays downfield at roughly the same rate as other top TEs like Travis Kelce and George Kittle.  Dannehy also gives you Graham's 2019 catch rate (63.3%) and his AvgYPC (11.8) both of which are in line with his career averages which would also be key in demonstrating that he's still playing productive football even at age 33.  The article is establishing a solid contrarian view of Graham that differs from most of the media that has been used to criticize Pace and the deal.

Actually I'd say your post comparing Holtz to Graham was the epitome of "abusing" an invalid stat to make the argument you wanted to make.  So no kewpie doll for you brother.  You may be able to slide that by others but you ain't gonna slide that stuff by me. That's why I asked for your source and clearly you don't have one other than having made up your own way of doing it.  You're entitled to your own opinions just as Andrew Dannehy is entitled to his but at least he backed his up with valid stats.  So far you have not.  If you want us to analyze those other dozen stats to make your point bring 'em and we can do that but let's not play those other games around here OK?

Edited by soulman

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Don't have time to get into tonight but this is where I need people to understand WHERE and HOW these numbers are coming about. Something that most people don't even pay attention too anymore for some reason. Context matter and NEITHER of you are using it.

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6 hours ago, soulman said:

One argument made here is that Graham can't run anymore yet that particular stat shows that based on the number of occurrences (in this case targets) Jimmy Graham is still capable of making explosive plays downfield at roughly the same rate as other top TEs like Travis Kelce and George Kittle.

That's not what this stat is showing. The only thing it shows is the proportion of 20+ yard receptions. Those could be 20 yards gained in the air or through YAC.

But there are multiple issues with the way the stat is defined. A player's ability to generate "explosive plays" is highly contextual and dependent on his role in an offensive scheme. Not only that, it places an arbitrary cutoff on what it counts as "explosive" where a 20 yard reception is the same as a 40 yard reception but a 19 yard reception doesn't count. Further, there is very limited information conveyed because we're looking at extremely small samples of positive results. Graham had a total of 9 explosive plays in 2019. He had 6 in 2018. He's not a player who consistently tops the leaderboard for big plays so using this as the basis for an argument seems misleading.

Peak Jimmy Graham (2011-2014) was heavily involved with almost 138 targets and 1100 receiving yards per season, 8 yards per target, and a 64.4% catch rate. Over the last 3 years he's been much less involved with 82 targets and 535 yards per season, 6.5 yards per target, and a 61.2% catch rate.

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2 minutes ago, abstract_thought said:

That's not what this stat is showing. The only thing it shows is the proportion of 20+ yard receptions. Those could be 20 yards gained in the air or through YAC.

I think we can be fairly certain it's a combination of both just as it is with others but you're welcome to research it if you like.

And ya' know what.  I'm not gonna debate the rest with you because you're looking for stuff to support your own opinion when you don't have to.  I already said you're entitled to your own opinion just as Andrew Dannehy is entitled to his.  So go ahead and own it.  You don't need to justify it to me but you're sure as hell not gonna score any points with that manipulated JP Holtz comparison.  Come on man.

I simply presented another side of the viewpoint that Jimmy Graham is washed up and it isn't even my own viewpoint even though I may agree with some of it.  Dannehy presented valid stats and even included videos from the playoffs to support his view.  And in both cases Graham was 20 yards or more downfield when he made the catch.  How many of those kind of catches did our TEs make in 2019?

This is not about "peak Jimmy Graham".  That Jimmy Graham got a $30 mil deal from GB.  This Jmmy Graham got what is essentially a $9 mil deal so we didn't pay for "peak Jimmy Graham".  We paid for a proven vet TE to help us win at least the NFCN for one year because we're unsure we have anyone else on the roster who can do what he can.  That's all it is.  It's not a lifetime marriage between them.

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19 minutes ago, abstract_thought said:

That's not what this stat is showing. The only thing it shows is the proportion of 20+ yard receptions. Those could be 20 yards gained in the air or through YAC.

But there are multiple issues with the way the stat is defined. A player's ability to generate "explosive plays" is highly contextual and dependent on his role in an offensive scheme. Not only that, it places an arbitrary cutoff on what it counts as "explosive" where a 20 yard reception is the same as a 40 yard reception but a 19 yard reception doesn't count. Further, there is very limited information conveyed because we're looking at extremely small samples of positive results. Graham had a total of 9 explosive plays in 2019. He had 6 in 2018. He's not a player who consistently tops the leaderboard for big plays so using this as the basis for an argument seems misleading.

Peak Jimmy Graham (2011-2014) was heavily involved with almost 138 targets and 1100 receiving yards per season, 8 yards per target, and a 64.4% catch rate. Over the last 3 years he's been much less involved with 82 targets and 535 yards per season, 6.5 yards per target, and a 61.2% catch rate.

I mean... that 6.5 yards per target number is skewed way down by 2017 (5.4) which was the ultimate statistical outlier. Graham’s second lowest yards per target across 10 seasons is 7.1. 2017 was also his lowest catch percentage season (59.4%).

Looking at the most recent 2 seasons instead of 3 his yards per target is 7.27 (below his career average but still solid) and yards per catch 11.9 (right in line with his 12.1 career average). His catch rate is 62.4%.

Projecting the rate of production for his 2 most recent seasons across 80 targets (5 per game) you get 50/581. For the $6M he’s due in 2020 I’m good with that. It’s not superstar Jimmy Graham but it’s definitely solid NFL receiving TE production, which was the need going into FA. Getting it from Ebron may have been more desirable and may have had more upside, but also was probably the more volatile move. Availability was clearly a key part of this signing after we were destroyed by the lackthereof from Burton, Shaheen and even Braunecker in 2019.

Looking at this signing through the lens of what Graham was at his athletic peak 6-9 years ago from 2011-2014 is silly. First of all, he was all-time great levels of good before. Secondly, that was 6-9 years ago. Barack was president. The Cubs were at the beginning of their rebuild. Jabari Parker was going to be the next great NBA star. That was FOREVER ago in the timeline of sports. 

 

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