Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

31 Jul 2012

Jimmy Graham vs Rob Gronkowski

I've been wrestling with this decision in my fantasy leagues, and KUBIAK thinks it's a neck and neck. So I broke it down myself, starting with attempts: last year Jimmy Graham had 149 targets to Gronks 124.

Them being neck and neck makes sense on the surface, until I saw that KUBIAK has Graham's targets taking a big hit, while Gronks stay close to the same.

I calculated the amount of targets each player on the Saints and Patriots is receiving. (I asked in the past why QB Attempts and adding up the targets were different numbers and was told that QB attempts were different due to things like camp battles and inaccuracy of trying to predict exact targets)

When adding up the Saints WR, TE, and RB pass attempts, KUBIAK has Drew Brees at 576 attempts. KUBIAK itself seems to disagree with this, as it's projecting 626 attempts. Brees hit 630+ 4 times within the last 5 years.

The Saints have added a few rookies and their D doesn't look to get much better than last year after Bountygate, so this'd seem to favor continuing passing a ton. They haven't added any receivers (Don't get me wrong, I love Toon as much as the next guy. . .) to take away from Graham's workload, who in targets was really the #1 WR on the team.

Tom Brady came to 624 attempts to WRs/RBs/TEs (I removed Addai since he's not on the team). Tom Brady had 611 last year, in what was a career year for attempts for him. In his entire career, he's only hit above 580 twice - last year, and 2002.

The Patriots have also drafted heavy D, seem to have improved their running game, and picked up another high volume WR to further dilute players like Gronks attempts. Hernandez also missed a few games to increase Gronks targets as well.

So all this pretty much creates 3 long-winded questions for me:

1) Why does KUBIAK think Graham's targets drop so much?
2) Why does it think Gronk's targets stay close to the same? Trends seem to suggest they'll drop quite a bit.
3) What does this mean for Brandon Lloyd, who it seems to think is essentially taking the Deion Branch role?

Posted by: Crushinator on 31 Jul 2012

5 replies , Last at 30 Aug 2012, 6:40am by FrenchEagles

Re: Jimmy Graham vs Rob Gronkowski
by fb29 :: Tue, 07/31/2012 - 1:44pm

1) I am willing to bet they are just regressing him. Could be they expect Graham to have to help block since they lost Nicks, as his replacement can't help out his tackle as much so Graham has to (look at Vernon Davis last year). I don't actually understand o-line schemes though.

2) Well, BGE never fumbled. Now they have two 2nd-year RBs. Maybe the Pats trust a Brady to Welker slant or Brady to Gronk uncoverable pass more than a RB run with young guys, keeping pass targets high. Also McDaniels only wants to throw.

3) Lloyd is probably the 4th target in this offense. I could see him having quite a few bomb TDs, but I don't think he'll be very consistent for fantasy purposes. According to ESPN Lloyd is the #18 WR taken by ADP. Ahead of Percy Harvin, Antonio Brown, and Steve Johnson. That's way too high.

I would personally take Graham ahead of Gronk in fantasy. I would avoid Lloyd at his draft position.

Re: Jimmy Graham vs Rob Gronkowski
by Crushinator :: Thu, 08/02/2012 - 10:46am

Well, first I'll sum it up with my core observation before diving in: KUBIAK is giving Brady around 40 more targets than his career average attempts, while giving Brees around 50 less targets than his career average in attempts.

1) If Jimmy Graham gets 40 less targets, where are they going? According to KUBIAK, they're not going to anyone, as it has Brees with 50 fewer attempts when you add up his receivers/RBs/TEs than when you look at his QB numbers.

It might not be Graham, but this means that if Brees does throw 626 times, it's underprojecting SOMEONE in the Saints offense substantially, or several people by around 10-15 targets. My guess would just be Graham as he was a 149 target, essentially number 1 WR on that team last year.

In terms of blocking, I don't really know if KUBIAK takes that into account. That said it doesn't really address the above. Graham's also a mediocre blocker.

2) I agree that the Pats will throw a lot. That said, even in 2007 Brady didn't hit 611 attempts. The obvious reason why they had so many attempts last year would be a lack of a deep threat so a ton of short/intermediate passes. In theory this number would regress to the mean Brady's career average of somewhere around 580. We have a lot of data on Brady.

This also means that someone on the Patriots is being overprojected.

3) I really have no clue who, but if Brady hits his career average, that 50 overtargets are going to have to come out of someone. I personally believe it won't be Lloyd since he's frequently targeted in other offenses, but I don't really know. Maybe it's Welker/Gronk/Hernandez each having 10-15 less targets. Maybe Stevan Ridley gets 2 receptions all year. Maybe Lloyd just goes full Ocho on the Pats. You're right though, Lloyd is scary. Really what KUBIAK is telling me about the Pats is "There's a lot of guys, hard to tell whose going to do what"

Re: Jimmy Graham vs Rob Gronkowski
by Joel (not verified) :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 12:29pm

I think the biggest problem with KUBIAK here is that it doesn't account for the fact that the Patriots switched offensive coordinators in the offseason. This last season they ran the largest number of 2 TE sets of any team in the NFL by a wide margin. Now Josh McDaniels is the new as offensive coordinator. There is no evidence that McDaniels is particularly favorable to TE either in his time as a head coach or as an offensive coordinator. It may be that the Patriots ran 2 TE sets as a response to personnel (talented TEs in Gronk and Hernandez, lack of good receivers) rather than as a broader scheme, and that McDaniels will continue running more 2 TE sets due to personnel. However, the Patriots brought in Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney to shore up WR.

In short I'd take Graham because I think Gronk and Hernandez will go from being on the field together most of the time to splitting time.

Re: Jimmy Graham vs Rob Gronkowski
by Crushinator :: Thu, 08/16/2012 - 1:55pm

Which is funny because that's only half the reason of it showing Gronk > Graham. KUBIAK actually is assuming Graham's usage drops considerably despite no new moving parts to the offense, while Gronk's usage stays nearly the same despite a new starting WR in the mix, a new offensive scheme, and a QB whose total attempts are likely to regress - or in other words, more receiving options with less passes to spread around.

Gronk is getting a TD and yardage regression, which makes sense after the year he had, but his usage is showing very close to last year.

Graham is getting a large target regression - it's probably underprojecting him by at least 20 targets conservatively, and with a TE with an accurate QB, that's a good 13 catches at minimum. I more just wasn't sure why KUBIAK thinks Graham is going to be less focal in a pass first offense.

Re: Jimmy Graham vs Rob Gronkowski
by FrenchEagles :: Thu, 08/30/2012 - 6:40am

Really interesting discussion, I was asking myself this question. Playing in a PPR league (1 PPR), adding 10 receptions to Graham moves up to 9th overall rank instead of the 14th (I added 10 yards per reception and no TD).

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