Perspectives: Jimmy Graham’s Position

     Jimmy Graham.  Undeniably a great player, but what position does he really play?  Is the New Orleans Saints Pro-bowler a tight end, as he is officially listed, or is he really a wide receiver as he wants to be?  This will be the first entry of a new series I’m doing, called Perspectives.  The main idea here is that I give as much information on a topic as I can, seeing a sports related issue from as many different angles and perspectives as I can, but in the end leaving the decision up to you.  I’m giving you all the facts about a situation so you can talk to your friends about it, and be able to make your own opinions.
     First of all, just in case you aren’t familiar with the issue, here’s what you need to know.  Jimmy Graham is one of the best tight ends in the NFL, if not the best.  He’s a two time Pro-Bowler, All-Pro,  and was the leading receiver in terms of yards, receptions, and touchdowns for the Saints last season. However, up to now Graham had been on his rookie contract, so last season he only made about 1.3 million dollars.  I’ll be the first to tell you that NFL players are overpaid, but in terms of NFL salaries, that makes him severely underpaid.  To put off giving him a new contract right now, he has been franchise tagged for about seven million dollars for next season as a tight end.  However, Jimmy Graham says he is a wide receiver, and if that is the case, he will be paid 12.3 million dollars next season, basically a five million dollar payout if he wins his case.  Obviously, this will be about the definition of positions and whether or not players can define their roles on a team.
     Now that the basics are out of the way, lets look at Jimmy Graham.  He’s a big dude, coming in at six feet seven inches and weighing 265 pounds.  He’s a converted basketball player, just like many tight ends in the NFL.  In fact, he played four years of college basketball at Miami, while only playing one year of football for the Hurricanes.  The average NFL wide receiver is about six feet tall and weighs around 200 pounds.  For sake of comparison, the average tight end is around six feet four or five inches tall and 240 pounds.  From this it can be seen that even for a tight end Jimmy Graham is big.  Based on size alone, Jimmy Graham is a tight end.
     Jimmy Graham’s play doesn’t reflect that of an average tight end.  The NFL players association states that Graham lines up like a tight end 67% of the time.  If this is true, that’s a very compelling argument to suggest in reality he is a wide receiver.  Graham is fast, and runs all kinds of different routes.  While many tight ends spend the majority of their time on the field blocking, Graham doesn’t.  He isn’t the best blocker in the world, but that’s not what he’s needed for out on the field.  He’s meant to play like a big, strong wide receiver.
     Graham’s argument isn’t that complicated.  More money naturally comes with being a wide receiver than with a tight end.  He also probably wants to be recognized as a receiver, because more popularity and publicity comes to receivers.  Graham believes that he has the right do define his own position, and it’s the job of the NFL to prove him wrong.
     The NFL doesn’t have that strong of a case.  Their primary argument is that he lines up as a tight end at least part of the time, and meets in the tight end room.  However, their argument has notably been bolstered by the fact that in Jimmy Graham’s twitter account Graham calls himself a tight end.  These arguments are especially flimsy when you realize that the NFL officially lists him as a tight end, so it would be weird for him to officially list himself as something different.  In addition, the NFL most likely thinks that he is in this only for the money, and while that may be true, from a business standpoint they don’t want to comply with Graham’s wishes.
     Another idea here is that Jimmy Graham will most likely not be the first tight end to request a position transfer to wide receiver.  If this continues, we may be looking at the elimination of the tight end position in the future, or maybe the creation of a new position.  For instance, in soccer their is a left defender and left winger, but also a left midfielder.  In this scenario Jimmy Graham would be a left midfielder.  While this isn’t the best example in the world, I think the point is made clear.  This issue is much bigger than Jimmy Graham.
     This event also effects the fantasy spectrum.  Millions of people play fantasy football, and now the rules might have to be adjusted if tight ends turn into wide receivers.  Tight end is already a relatively weak position where only a few tight ends produce like wideouts do.  Making players like Jimmy Graham wide receivers may eliminate the tight end position from many leagues, or force an adjustment of points systems, perhaps creating more PPR leagues to even receivers and tight ends with running backs.  We may see less position players and more flex options to add to fantasy strategies.  Every league will be different, and it remains to be seen how many people would adjust to this.  I’ve only given a few options.
     So at this point, I believe I’ve covered the situation rather thoroughly, and now you have to make the decision for yourself.  Personally, it is my opinion that Jimmy Graham should be granted the right to become a wide receiver, as he basically plays like one now.  Players should be able to pick their positions or change their positions as long as it’s within reason.  Kickers aren’t going to be paid like quarterbacks, and if they try to they’ll probably be released.  That’s my final point.  If you aren’t a big time player, requesting a position change does make you vulnerable to losing your job, and teams have every right to get rid of you.  Position changes are decisions that I think players should be able to make.  But that’s just me.  What do you think?
Thanks for reading,
Connor

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