During a year in which New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is on pace for almost 1,900 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns, fantasy owners suddenly have another option at the position with a familiar surname. Garrett Graham will be taking over as the primary tight end for the Houston Texans, following the loss of Owen Daniels to a non-displaced fibula fracture. Houston this week placed Daniels on injured reserve with the designation to return, indicating that he will miss at least the team’s next seven games. The loss of Daniels means a team that features its tight end prominently in the offense will now turn to the other Graham as it looks to revive its playoff hopes.
Daniels is second only to Andre Johnson in terms of targets in Houston’s passing game this season and he is tied for the team lead in touchdowns scored. Many people will be surprised to learn that the Texan sharing the scoring lead with Daniels through five games isn’t Johnson or Arian Foster, but the aforementioned Garrett Graham. The fourth-year player out of Wisconsin has three trips to the end zone this year after scoring three times over his last eight regular-season games of 2012. Despite being the number-two tight end in 2013, Graham is already fourth on the Texans in receiving yards and has been targeted five or more times in all but one game this season. He has been an emerging part of the offense and will now be asked to accelerate his involvement following the loss of Daniels.
Despite losing a key member of the offense, it’s not likely that Houston will significantly reduce its use of the tight end moving forward. If anything, the recent struggles of quarterback Matt Schaub will likely lead to more conservative play calling, potentially leaning even more heavily on tight ends and running backs in the passing game. The combination of Graham and Daniels was averaging 12 targets, 8 catches, almost 80 yards, and better than a touchdown per game thus far in 2013. While Graham will not necessarily absorb all of Daniels’ targets, he will be very involved in an offense that last year completed 124 passes to the tight end for 1,309 yards and twelve scores. The new number-two option at the position is likely to be rookie sixth-rounder Ryan Griffin who yet to register a receiving stat this season.
Graham could easily see 6-10 targets per week over the next two months, including exceptionally-friendly matchups with Arizona and Jacksonville. If Daniels is sidelined longer than the minimum eight weeks, Graham could be looking at a possible fantasy playoff run of Jacksonville again in Week 14, the Colts in Week 15, and Denver’s last place pass defense in what for many would be championship week. We currently have Graham ranked as the seventh best tight end for Week 6, and the combination of opportunity and schedule could have him as a top-10 fixture for the foreseeable future. He might not be the next Jimmy Graham, but Garrett can be a real fantasy asset for owners going forward.