Don't call Graham a top-10 WR

Jimmy Graham has been a terrific player for the New Orleans Saints. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

ESPN New Orleans Saints team reporter Mike Triplett recently posed the question: If a draft were held tomorrow with wide receivers and tight ends being the only eligible players, would Jimmy Graham be selected among the top 10? It's an interesting question to ask, given the ongoing discussion around whether Graham should be classified as a tight end or wide receiver with regard to his franchise tag.

If the measurement is from a fantasy football perspective, the answer is a resounding yes. Over the past three years, Graham's 542 total fantasy points (ESPN standard league scoring) ranks third and his 36 touchdowns first among tight ends and wide receivers. He is one of the few non-running backs a fantasy owner can justify using a first-round pick on, and a player worth keeping in a keeper league even if the cost is a first-round selection.

From a pure football perspective, though, the answer gets a bit more complex. A review of his metrics indicates a number of strong suits but also highlights a set of negatives that put his potential top-10 status into doubt.

This might be best illustrated by breaking down Graham's numbers into segments over the three-year period to compare with other wide receivers and tight ends.

Production from inside the 10-yard line

Graham has scored 17 receiving touchdowns inside the 10, a total that is tied for the most in the league. He also has 21 receptions, which is a league best. This area is all about putting the ball over the goal line and Graham has done that as well or better than anyone else in the comparison.

Production inside the 20-yard line

Graham's numbers are elite here as well.