My favorite player in the NFL should probably be a Chicago Bear or someone who went to Texas, but Jimmy Graham has nothing to do with either team. The reason for my love is not for who he is on the field, but who he is off of it, probably best described with this video:

Growing up, Graham’s mother didn’t want him. Neither did his father. At one point, his stepfather left him at social services demanding $98 for Graham. Another time, his mom dropped him at an orphanage for child delinquents, and although Graham called her for help after being beaten, she did not return for nine months. It wasn’t until he was in high school that somebody opened their heart to Graham. Becky Vinson, who met Graham at a church prayer group, adopted and cared for him. With her support, he worked hard in school, got a basketball scholarship to the University of Miami (FL) where he played football for the first time in his life as a senior. Today, he is a star tight end for the New Orleans Saints.

In order to keep Graham another year, the Saints used their franchise tag on him, meaning that Graham will be playing for the Saints next year unless another team gives up two first round picks to the Saints and signs him to a long-term deal. Some people, like Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, think that nobody should even consider giving up two picks for Graham. Freeman writes:

“Graham puts up huge numbers, to be sure. He’s talented, yes. Yet there is almost a manufactured aspect to the statistical prowess,” Freeman wrote. “Graham plays half of his games indoors, catches passes from one of the most accurate passers of all time and is part of an offense that throws constantly. None of that would happen in rainy Seattle or run-heavy Baltimore.

“There’s also this: Graham is soft. As soft as the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.”

I wish that I could crawl into my computer screen and back out of Freeman’s to slap some sense into him.

Freeman’s analysis first goes wrong by calling Graham overrated. Yes, the Saints throw a lot, but a team can throw it thousands of times more than the next, and it doesn’t mean a thing unless the receiver gets thrown the ball. Graham was targeted the twelfth most times in the NFL last season, and he capitalized. He led the league in TD receptions, averaged 75.9 yards a game, and was a defensive coordinators’ worst nightmare, forcing them to create schemes to double team the 6’7 weapon. If Graham was just putting up numbers because of situation, then why would Drew Brees feel the need to go on national TV and say this?:

The next eleven words of Freeman’s piece are what really got me worked up though:

“Graham is soft. As soft as the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.”

The fact that anybody would make that claim is absurd. Graham’s own mother abandoned him. His stepfather hit him. When he finally found someone that loved him, that person was dirt poor.

Graham was born into a life with every single obstacle. He could have understandably be a kid that dropped out of high school, but he fought through. Jimmy Graham is tough. Maybe not the NFL’s typical “you-say-something-to-me-I’ll-fight-you” tough, but Jimmy Graham is as tough as they come. He’s been in fights before. Trust me, he has anger inside of him. He’s been beat up, but he doesn’t need to prove to anyone he’s tough, because knows he’s tough. He knows what he’s been through and yelling at someone in the middle of a game isn’t going to change that.

Freeman has no credibility to even write the article, and he may just be the most unqualified person in America to make those claims. In 2004, Freeman was writing for the Indianapolis Star as a columnist but resigned after it was discovered that he faked his resume to include a college degree that did not exist. He felt the need to hide behind the shield of an imaginary University of Delaware diploma. Freeman isn’t even tough enough to own up to his past, but he thinks he can and should critique someone else’s toughness?

Would I give up two first round picks for Graham? For a team at the bottom of the draft and in need of an offensive weapon, he’s more than worth the asking price. He’s the best tight end in the game by a long shot, and he has a bigger chip on his shoulder than anyone else in the NFL. As far as real landing spots for him, I’d keep an eye on the Seahawks, Patriots, and Chiefs, all of whom have late draft picks and could use an offensive weapon.

Whether he’s playing in a new town or back in New Orleans, Graham will play next year with Freeman’s words in the back of his mind. The largest chip on an NFL player’s shoulder just got even bigger. Watch out.

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