We've spent plenty of time debating Gronk vs. Graham. But with so many expectations on the Packers and their offense, have we underrated Jermichael Finley?
I started Graham in the wild card round, and I'm riding him all the way to the Super Bowl (hopefully) in an effort to receive double, triple and quadruple points. Gronkowski might be a more popular pick at the position in the NFL Playoff Challenge due to the Patriots having the path of least resistance to the Super Bowl, but I don't see Finley as more than the third-best option among tight ends. He posted decent totals in 2011, but was inconsistent at times as well. With Greg Jennings expected to be back in the mix, he could also see a slight drop in targets. If the Saints do lose to the Niners and I lose Graham, Gronkowski will be my next option at the position (assuming the Patriots beat the Broncos). Again, Finley would be third, at best.
"Underrate" may not be the right verb, considering most of us overrated Finley going into 2011 in his return from last season's knee injury. Aside from a huge, three-TD game against the Bears way back in Week 3, Rodgers' No. 1 tight end played like No. 2 in the regular season. But I'm going with him in the Playoff Challenge for three reasons: 1) His six-catch performance versus the Giants in December was his second-best game of 2011; 2) I want players whose teams I think are going to the Super Bowl; 3) I have a sunny disposition and believe some positive affirmation will boost Jermichael's self-confidence.
Perhaps we have. But the issue here is that there is a semi-steep dropoff from Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham to the next tight end. The Broncos had no answer for Aaron Hernandez or Gronkowski when these two teams locked up in Week 15. Jimmy Graham was a slam dunk choice, as the Saints were alive in the wild-card round. So basically, it came down to a) if you're a Gronk guy, you waited on him so as to get double points this weekend; or b) if you're a Graham guy, you rode him from wild-card weekend on down. Moreover, had the Saints been eliminated by Detroit, then Gronk would have been the next logical choice. You can even make the case for Hernandez over Finley. I'm not sure we're under-valuing Finley so much as we are limited to one guy. That guy for me was Graham (and still is).
I wouldn't touch any tight end outside of the "Big Three". It seems like we are underrating Jermichael Finley a bit, but he's really underperformed this season -- at least for somebody with his gifts. But Finley isn't the focal point of the Packers' offense and has to yield to talented contributors such as Jennings and Nelson. Gronk, Hernandez and Graham are top options in their respective offenses.
- Jason SmithNFL.com
Finley too much of a risk
I don't think you can underrate someone who may or may not have a big week for you. With two lockdown TEs to choose from (and Aaron Hernandez, if you are feeling adventurous), there's no need to take a chance on Finley. It's hard to take anyone on the Packers other than Aaron Rodgers because you really don't know who's going to have a big day with all of that squad's weapons. Sure, Jordy Nelson would be your No. 1 pick, but he could go for three catches and 35 yards just as easily as he could seven and 125 with two touchdowns. For that reason, Finley is just too big a risk for me. I know Gronk and Graham are going to be huge every week because they're tremendous parts of their teams' respective game plans. But Finley? Let someone else roll the dice.
Finley is only an option for those that are dead set on the Packers making a Super Bowl repeat run. Between Rodgers, Nelson and Grant, you're covered on the Packers and are better off going with Graham in case the Saints make it, or Gronkowski should the Patriots get out of the AFC. Finley has too often been the fourth or fifth option for Rodgers this season, even if he finally started coming around in later weeks.
It's not so much that Finley's not good. It's just that there are better options. Gronkowski and Graham have been, far and away, the league's best TEs all season long. On top of that, they play on teams that have better-than-even chances of making it to the Super Bowl this season. Sure, Finley and the Packers could easily end up in Indianapolis as well, but why take the risk of an inconsistent player when you could go with one of the two best guys at the position and still end up with triple (or in Graham's case, quadruple) points?