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Hernandez, Gronkowski struggles make Graham look even better

Kansas City Chiefs v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Sandwiched between tight ends Rob Gronkowski (round two) and Aaron Hernandez (round four) in the 2010 draft was tight end Jimmy Graham.  A third-round pick of the Saints, Graham was the last tight end selected before Hernandez.

The Saints took Graham with pick number 95, and the Patriots took Hernandez 18 spots later.  In between, four receivers were selected — Mardy Gilyard (Rams; no. 99), Mike Williams (Bucs; no. 101); Marcus Easley (Bills; no. 107); Jacoby Ford (Raiders; no. 108).

It’s unknown whether the Saints wrestled with the choice of taking Graham or Hernandez.  The red flags were well known, and Hernandez’s history easily could have been a factor.  But Graham’s limited football career likely was an issue, too.  He played only one year at Miami.  Hernandez was the far more established and experienced player.

Regardless of how the Saints made their decision, they settled on Graham.  Of the three tight ends, he’s the only one still laboring under his rookie deal.

From Gronkowski’s injuries and surgeries and party-boy tendencies to Hernandez’s legal entanglements, Graham is looking like the best of the bunch.  And the Saints need to acknowledge that with a long-term deal.

To his credit, Graham hasn’t groused.  But if the team and the player can’t work out a multi-year contract, a franchise-tag fracas could be coming over whether Graham is a tight end or a receiver, given the number of times he lines up in the slot.

The best way to avoid that outcome would be to get a new agreement negotiated, and the best time to do it would be sooner rather than later.  The cap is a problem for now; according to NFLPA records, the Saints currently have roughly $5 million in total space.  But with all of their draft picks signed, the Saints wouldn’t have to clear much space to do a long-term deal with Graham, since the signing bonus would be spread over multiple seasons.

Graham’s refusal to make a stink, publicly or privately, about his status puts less pressure on the Saints to take care of him.  In turn, however, this attitude proves that Graham is far more worthy of the security than Hernandez, and possibly even more worthy than Gronkowski.

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38 Responses to “Hernandez, Gronkowski struggles make Graham look even better”
  1. vibesid says: Jul 9, 2013 10:26 AM

    Look for the Saints to come back strong and challenge the Falcons for the division title. They have made a lot of good personnel decisions, such as drafting Graham.

  2. cardslifer says: Jul 9, 2013 10:40 AM

    Better average about 40 points per game if you expect them to win any games.

    The funny thing is that when we call someone a cancer they are usually good at their job. Not the case for Rob Ryan.

  3. mdd913 says: Jul 9, 2013 10:40 AM

    You guys should really stop printing stuff about how the Saints have all these salary cap problems when you have been proven wrong time and time again for the last four years straight.

    Seriously, it’s getting old.

  4. ken0west says: Jul 9, 2013 10:44 AM

    I like seeing them get tagged. Why the players ever signed a CBA that included tags is beyond me.

  5. stoopidfool says: Jul 9, 2013 10:48 AM

    exactly what way does gronkowski make graham look even better?

    it’ll be nice someday when graham actually picks up a block

    talk about a complete idiot who loves to bash on the pats……..way to go, jet fan

  6. bennyb82 says: Jul 9, 2013 10:51 AM

    Gotta love Graham`s story. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that he was basically homeless? I bet that experience makes him appreciate this so much more…and maybe it will even keep him making smart choices. Then again, we probably thought Hernandez was staying out of trouble…

  7. dboldave says: Jul 9, 2013 10:52 AM

    Funny how when the Pats locked up Hernandez and Gronk everyone was praising them for taking care of their own and assuring they were part of their core offense going forward. Now everyone is ripping them for doing just that. If only GM’s had the benefit of hindsight like sportswriters do.

  8. denverwally says: Jul 9, 2013 11:01 AM

    No way is Graham a Tight End, they guy still hasn’t thrown a decent block in his career. Gronk is a bone crushing blocker along with being the best touchdown maker inside of the red zone in the league.
    Graham looks pretty making those one handed catches and then diving to the ground before taking a hit – or running to daylight, I will grant him that.
    Graham is a 6’7″ version of Wes Welker. A slot receiver.

  9. raiderufan says: Jul 9, 2013 11:06 AM

    I don’t know about all this but I do know that I was screaming for the Raiders to take Graham.

    Anyone that watched that kid play one year at the U knew the right coaches would get a superstar. He was crazy raw and would go up and get a ball most shouldn’t and keep a drive alive. He’d get up and look like he had no idea how big a deal what he really did was. Like it was just another rebound.

  10. kingokra says: Jul 9, 2013 11:14 AM

    I think the Saints will sign him to a long-term deal if he gives up smoking. Look at that pic! Dude is a chimney.

  11. salmen76 says: Jul 9, 2013 11:19 AM

    Thanks for the good words on the Saints Mike. I know it pains you to write good stuff about my Saints. Ha Ha. Just kidding! Really though it does feel refreshing for a change. The Saints have an outstanding executive/coaching staff. And i believe Jimmy Graham is one of the best TEs in the NFL. Geaux Saints!

  12. johnnyjagfan says: Jul 9, 2013 11:23 AM

    Funny that Graham is the guy that went to “The U” and the other guys went to the school where the players had halos over their heads…

  13. gopblows says: Jul 9, 2013 11:41 AM

    With ole Matty CHOKE……that Falcons window is closing very quickly and they may find themselves battling Tampa and Carolina for last place. The Saints will be dominant again.

    Further showing that Baltimore picked the right qb in 2008.

  14. strokinmyego says: Jul 9, 2013 11:41 AM

    Gronkowski is being declared dead by many in the media, even though his timetable for recovery would have him ready for week two at the latest.

    Gronk scored more touchdowns, averaged almost three yards per catch more, and had just 200 less receiving yards than Graham despite the fact he played in four fewer games.

    Obviously Hernandez didn’t work out and the Saints picking Graham over him was the right move, but Gronkowski’s numbers over his first three seasons are Randy Moss in his prime esque. He’s one of the most dominant players in the game and if you take Gronk’s blocking ability into account Graham can’t touch him.

  15. rc33 says: Jul 9, 2013 11:41 AM

    Gronk matches up one-on-one with D.E.’s and O.L.B’s. That’s not part of Graham’s game in the least. Gronkowski is a traditional TE with traditional TE responsibilities.
    Either way, Graham’s a terrific player and will get PLENTY of attention should he reach free agency next off season.

  16. johnelwayishorsefaced says: Jul 9, 2013 11:41 AM

    Yeah the only problem with the pretense of this post is that Gronk hasn’t struggled at all and has put up superior statistics to Grahm’s.
    His partying and what he does with his own time is nobody’s business. It’s like an old man “get off my lawn” type thing to complain about and I would imagine that most of the complaints are coming from people who are jealous of a rich young man out having a good time while they’re sitting at home in front of their computers.
    Now maybe if Gronk doesn’t come back strong from his surgery then you may have a point but right now it’s premature to say either way.

  17. lightcleric says: Jul 9, 2013 11:42 AM

    The guy loves playing for the Saints, joking(I hope!) about retiring when Brees does, and he’s said he’s not looking to “break the bank”. I’m sure they’ll get a reasonable contract worked out that doesn’t wreck the cap but also pays the guy every cent he deserves because he’s a great guy and an incredible talent.

  18. pastabelly says: Jul 9, 2013 11:43 AM

    Gronkowski will have a better year than Graham even after the surgeries. Don’t be so quick to count him out.

  19. greenwhodat26 says: Jul 9, 2013 11:44 AM

    denverwally – you have absolutely no idea of what you are speaking. Have you ever watched the guy play? He catches the ball and automatically hits the “truck stick.” He looks for contact; then when he basically runs the safety or corner over he jumps up all fired-up and usually flexes or bashes his helmet with his hands. You sound like a bitter child.

  20. nagaswan says: Jul 9, 2013 11:46 AM

    You forgot to mention Drew Brees track record with TE who didn’t play much (or any) college football.

  21. sbchampsagain says: Jul 9, 2013 11:51 AM

    The first 7 TEs taken in 2010 are all pretty good. (on the field.)

    Gresham, Cincy (21)
    Gronk, NE (42)
    Dickson, Balt (70
    Moeaki, KC (93)
    Graham, NO (95)
    Hernandez, NE (113)
    Pitta, Balt (114)

  22. fightfan1 says: Jul 9, 2013 11:51 AM

    C’mon now… This guy didn’t even make the top 100 on nfl network.

  23. youarejealousof6rings says: Jul 9, 2013 12:11 PM

    mdd913 says:
    Jul 9, 2013 10:40 AM
    You guys should really stop printing stuff about how the Saints have all these salary cap problems when you have been proven wrong time and time again for the last four years straight.

    Seriously, it’s getting old.
    ___________________________________

    Have you seen their defense?

  24. CKL says: Jul 9, 2013 12:17 PM

    strokinmyego says:
    Jul 9, 2013 11:41 AM

    He’s one of the most dominant players in the game and if you take Gronk’s blocking ability into account Graham can’t touch him.
    ________________________________

    Good post overall, but if it weren’t for Gronk’s blocking ability , he wouldn’t have broken his arm to begin with. :(

    And Hernandez makes Jerramy Stevens look good.

  25. thestrategyexpert says: Jul 9, 2013 12:26 PM

    Well because of Gronk’s injury and the AH arrest, shouldn’t Graham get a couple million dollars of “recalculation of value” pay?

    Maybe that’s how you keep players out of trouble, by having a salary system that penalizes the busts and the trouble makers and sucks that value back in to the overall pie for those that did the majority of things the right way.

  26. pftbad says: Jul 9, 2013 12:42 PM

    Right, Gronk has more yards 2663-2648, more TDs 38-25, and a better YPC 14-2-12.3, is a far superior blocker and is 3 and 1/2 years younger and expected to be ready to go for the start of the season (while Graham is apparently impervious to injury) Gronk is under contract thru 2019 while Graham is a FA after this year and you act like that’s a bad thing. Will it still be good for the Saints when he leaves as a FA?

    But yeah the saints really dodged a bullet by not getting the younger, more productive, more well rounded, under contractual control player. Great insight.

    Fully expect this factually accurate comment to be deleted.

  27. scrummymustard says: Jul 9, 2013 1:19 PM

    Good article. He has never been in trouble and you never hear his name in the papers for acting like an idiot.

    How the saints haven’t locked him up yet is beyond my comprehension.

  28. scrummymustard says: Jul 9, 2013 1:24 PM

    @pftbad He is merely stating that Graham is 100% healthy and has had zero trouble or ‘negative’ (i say that bc i have no problem with Gronk’s partying) perceptions come out about Graham.

    I get it though, you love your Patriots. Still doesn’t discount the fact that the minor arm surgery took what 8 months to heal? And you expect him to make it back as expected with a back surgery?? The same one that kept him out a full year in college and made him drop to the 2nd round?

    Regardless, you missed the point of his article.

  29. vibesid says: Jul 9, 2013 1:40 PM

    All the Pats fans and Gronkowski lovers forget that he has had major major injury problems for years and he may never get back to 100%.

  30. nickster31 says: Jul 9, 2013 2:11 PM

    As a fan of neither team, I have no dog in this fight. That being said, if I were an NFL GM, and Gronk and Graham were both free agents? I think I would have to go with Graham.

    Dont get me wrong Pats fans, Gronk is a great player. The injury concerns are the real problem. He had back issues coming out of college and the issue with his arm? Long term, that investment would make me nervous.

    Graham can be taught to block. He already has the receiving part down. If the Saints dont give this kid a fitting contract, teams will be fighting over him next year.

  31. stoopidfool says: Jul 9, 2013 2:31 PM

    You have to want to block in order to learn to block.gronks already one of the best 3 blocking TE, and the best pass catching TE in the league…gronks back surgery was something expected some time ago not something that became an issue recently…..the infection screwed up the timing, that’s all….

    I’ll take the better football player……gronk

  32. semperfinflfan says: Jul 9, 2013 6:14 PM

    A lot of people are freaking stupid… Gronk has surpassed number my ars! Graham and Gronk both had almost the same numbers! You guys just speak to much out your azzez and not enough facts. Gronk is great player all around but he is already known to be injury prone, that being said how is Graham not better?! Also, Graham has proven to be a great pass blocker /run and most of you guys say he cant! lol you guys need to lay off the booze when u watch the games b.c most of you speak some silly stupid sh!tz

  33. johnclaytonsponytail says: Jul 9, 2013 11:48 PM

    Gronk is Fragile and a partying goof. Graham almost had 1000 yards with a dam near broken wrist. Gronk will be injury prone the rest of his career. Grahams career will be prolonged by his play cause he doesnt take the big hit.

  34. ilovefoolsball says: Jul 10, 2013 1:30 PM

    Jimmy will play longer at a higher level than Gronk when it’s all said and done.

    Gronk is due for a DUI.

  35. silentcount says: Jul 11, 2013 2:21 AM

    Man, the NFL off-season is so hard to endure. The media keeps grasping at straws trying to conjure up a story, like this one. The real story is this — Jimmy like playing football with Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Jimmy ain’t going anywhere. Mickey will make sure he get’s paid his due. (yawn)

  36. droyer85 says: Jul 12, 2013 4:19 AM

    The Saints draft guys with good character… guys who put the team before themselves. That’s why Graham hasn’t whined about his contract. He’s not that type of guy. But it doesn’t matter what their cap situation is when they give him a new deal, he’s not going anywhere, he’ll play for less than superstar money if he has to. He’s been quoted saying he’ll retire when Brees does. So even if by the end of the 2013 season he doesn’t have a new deal, don’t waste your time writing about how high of a target he is on the free agent market. He want’s a ring and he knows that the situation he’s in is the best one to accomplish that.

  37. deejayehn says: Jul 13, 2013 2:32 AM

    Gronk at 80%>Graham at 90%…

  38. patfic15 says: Jul 19, 2013 9:24 PM

    Payton said 3 years later he would be the steal of the draft. I’d agree.

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