Fantasy Football: Jimmy Graham's comeback just getting started
Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham put together good numbers in his first year back from a torn patella tendon, but the encore will be even better.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- In a 2015 game against the Steelers, Jimmy Graham went up for a deep ball in the end zone and came down with a torn patella tendon in his right knee. What followed was a grueling rehab and recovery that led to an improbable comeback for the tight end.
"I was told the statistics are 70 percent that I would never play again."-- Jimmy Graham
In 2016, Graham played in all 16 games and finished second on the Seahawks in every significant receiving category, third among all tight ends in yards and fourth in Fantasy points. He also made the Pro Bowl as a cherry-topper.
If you think that's good, then just imagine what he'll do when he actually practices.
Graham told CBS Sports at the Pro Bowl that he "barely practiced" during the weeks leading up to Sundays so he'd be ready for games. This was corroborated by teammates who said he barely did any work in the offseason or training camp, either.
"My knee injury was something serious," Graham said. "To go six months before I could even jog is pretty serious. Going into the season, I don't think anybody expected me to even be back to close to what I was."
Torn patella tendons have limited or ended many football careers in the past, so naturally football fans were skeptical about just how effective Graham would be.
"It is everything that people think it is and more as far as the pain and the struggles," Graham said. "Learning how to walk again was a process for me. It was some of the darker days of my life, but I've had many moments of my life where I've had to just kind of put my head down and work, and this was no different."
Seahawks players also held their breath to see just how their teammate would play.
"I saw him in the training room, daily, faithfully, very early in the morning," linebacker K.J. Wright revealed. "He really took on that challenge to get back out there."
In Week 1, Graham was limited to just 17 of 82 snaps, catching a single pass for 11 yards versus the Dolphins. His playing time increased significantly in Week 2 (55 of 67 snaps) but his numbers were still low -- three grabs for 42 yards.
Then in Week 3, a breakthrough. Graham caught six of nine targets against the 49ers for 100 yards and a touchdown from Russell Wilson. Graham was on his way back.
By Week 9, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner knew Graham finally rounded into Pro Bowl form.
"When I saw him jump over somebody, I was like 'all right, yeah, he's back,'" Wagner recounted, referring to Graham's leap over Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore. "There aren't a lot of people who could do that on a great knee and he's doing that on a repaired one."
In total, Graham had seven games with eight-plus Fantasy points. Of those seven, six were good for 10-plus points, which tied for second-most in Fantasy behind only Travis Kelce.
Graham believes the Pro Bowl was the end of that journey -- and the beginning of another.
"Everything's in the rear view," he said. "So imagine how I played this year. I mean, I barely practiced, honestly, during the week, just to be ready for the games.
"Going through this offseason, being with Russ out there in California, you know I'm going to fly out there and train with him and really get that chemistry down because I wasn't able to do that with him last year. It's only going to get better."
The Seahawks offense is in need of improved pass protection to keep Wilson upright and a downfield playmaker to make the offense pop. Graham figures to be that playmaker.
"I still feel like I'm 21," he said. "Most people said that I would never be the same and I still feel fast, I still feel big and I still feel unstoppable."
That conjures up memories of Graham's dominant 2011 and 2013 seasons in New Orleans when he had over 1,200 yards and 11-plus scores in each. Those were the years that put Graham on the map as a Fantasy stud at tight end.
He'll have the chance to get back to those numbers -- and that stud status -- in 2017. Bank on Graham being much more than a bounce-back player, but a true Fantasy hero who will come at an incredible value in drafts.
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