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Sam’s Film Room: Jimmy Graham’s role as mismatch receiver and run blocker

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Analysis of his 102 targets during the 2016 season.

NFL: NFC Divisional-Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

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After seven years in the NFL, the phrase “mismatch” has been commonly used to describe Jimmy Graham. Graham has the ability to use his body to box out defenders in man coverage, while also using his intelligence and vision to naturally find holes in zone coverage.

For this video breakdown, I tracked his 102 targets from the 2016 season to see the trends of his performance. Before we look at him as a player, here are some charts I created based on my tracking:

Targets by Location

This table breaks down where the ball was thrown. Note: Deep is 16+ yards, Medium is 6-15 yards, and Short is 5 yards or fewer.

Jimmy Graham’s Targets by Location
Jimmy Graham’s Targets by Location
Samuel Gold

Targets by Route

The next table breaks down his targets by route. Similar routes were combined together based on the distance and type of pass.

Jimmy Graham’s Targets by Route
Jimmy Graham’s Targets by Route
Samuel Gold

As you can see in the charts, a large portion of his role was crossing the center of the defense or running up the seam between the safeties. For roughly half of his targets, he stood attached to the formation while for the other half he mainly lined up in the slot typically in a tight split.

Versus the vast majority of linebackers and defensive backs, he either has a size or speed advantage. Really only against very skilled safeties, like Arizona Cardinals’ (now Washington Redskins) safety D.J. Swearinger, do defenses have a chance to stop him.

In addition to him being an underneath option, he was also used as a chip and release receiver. This helped stop the pass rush and while also giving Russell Wilson a quick outlet in the flat.

While many view Graham as pure receiving tight end, he is actually a well-rounded player and is at the very least an average run blocker. If he can work on keeping his pad level low and driving through the defender, he should be able to create leverage.

Overall, Graham offers a lot to the Seahawks’ offense. While he may never get the same number of targets that he received in New Orleans with Drew Brees, his production on a per-catch basis is basically the same and his skill-set should allow him to stay in the NFL for at least a couple more years.