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Can Graham Replace Nelson As a Touchdown Scorer?

The free agent signing of Jimmy Graham by the Green Bay Packers was made possible by the Packers releasing Jordy Nelson. The two will always be linked by that occurrence, but it’s not the only thing this tight end and wide receiver have in common.

I tripped over a list of the active NFL leaders in touchdowns scored the other day. Old vets Antonio Gates and Larry Fitzgerald are in a world all their own – their 114 and 110 career receiving touchdowns puts them almost 30 TDs ahead of anyone else. In spots three through five are Brandon Marshall, Rob Gronkowski, and Dez Bryant.

Guess who’s in sixth place? It’s a tie between Jordy and Jimmy, at 69 touchdowns.

Some receivers just have a knack for getting into the end zone. Antonio Brown is prolific, but he’s 10 TDs behind Jordy and Jimmy. He and Graham both turned pro in 2010, while Jordy turned pro in 2008, but Jordy didn’t even start more than four games until his fourth year, and missed the 2015 season. Julio Jones, who has been in the league for seven years, has only managed 43 TD catches.

Jordy, of course, has scored many times on long passes. Jimmy generally goes to work once his team is inside the 10-yard line, by posting up, boxing out, or simply out-jumping, out-reaching, or out-fighting defensive backs who are smaller by around 70 pounds and seven inches in height.

The Alabama Antelope

A short diversion. Though Jordy has departed, he is still safely near the top of the Green Bay record book with those 69 touchdowns, while with Green Bay. The one guy he was never going to equal was Don Hutson, who caught 99 TD passes. That total stood in the NFL record books for 44 years.

When Hutson wasn’t catching touchdown passes, he was kicking extra points and field goals. He also spent the last six years of his career playing defense, intercepting 30 passes along the way.

Hutson starred from 1935 through 1945 – at a time when passing was more of a gimmick than an established offensive weapon. Still, he led the league in touchdowns every year except 1939 and 1945. Hutson was the precursor of the modern era of the NFL.

Former Packers executives, including Bob Harlan and Ron Wolf, have referred to Hutson as the greatest player the game has known. While it’s impossible to compare different eras, when it comes to separating himself from his peers, Hutson is in a class by himself.

From Green Bay to Vegas

Let’s not feel too sorry for Jordy. He’ll likely finish his career in Las Vegas, as the Raiders will start playing there either in 2019 or 2020. That will be as big a culture change as you could find among NFL venues. The brand new NFL fan base should give even a consummate pro like Jordy some added spark and enthusiasm.

Bigger still, however, might be the head coaching difference: from Mike McCarthy to Jon Gruden! Contemplate that for a moment. It says a great deal that such a forward-thinking man as Gruden would be the first in line to go after Jordy once it became known that he had become a free agent.

Finally, Jordy will be switching from Aaron Rodgers to Derek Carr. Here’s what coach Gruden has to say about his five-year veteran, who got a $125 million five-year contract in 2017.

“(Derek Carr) has spectacular arm talent. He can make any throw from any platform: under duress, sidearm, you name it, running left, running right. He can make all the throws… We have to create more vertical shots for him, off of play action. We’ve got to get more from him athletically… This is an extremely athletic quarterback, but we’re gonna put him in charge at the line of scrimmage more than he’s been in the past… He has a lot of charisma, I think, that we’re going to try to unlock.”

Maybe Gruden had Jordy in mind when he brought up taking more vertical shots?

At any rate, I’m sure that as many Green Bay fans will be rooting for Nelson to do well out west as will be cheering for Graham in Green Bay.

Of all the unnerving actions taken by Packers leadership in 2018, the decision to part ways with Jordy might be the one that most determines this team’s destiny in the near future.


Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. cz March 19, 2018

    If Graham cant score TDs with Rodgers throwing, he wont anywhere.
    Look what not having Rodgers did to Jordy.
    Yeah, the Pack dont nead a TE now as much as WR … that true because Trevor Davis and Jeff Janis cant seem to be of starting quality at WR … which is the position they are supposed to have won, or at least pushed the starters to win …. bechwarmers instead.
    Send them to the Raiders too, or better yet, somewhere in the NFC North.

  2. Larry March 19, 2018

    It would seem to me Nelson for Graham will be a push. It does not make this a better team. Jordy will flourish under Gruden. I have no such faith in MM with his new TE.

  3. Cheese March 20, 2018

    Will Graham be under utilized at the position like Cook was? Or will Rodgers be forcing him the ball more than necessary like he has players in the past?

    1. Kato March 20, 2018

      That is my biggest concern. I think Graham can still be a big time playmaker, but Mike McCarthy has shown an inability to maximize a tight ends ability in his offenses. Look how long it took for Cook to be integrated. Martellus Bennett never really felt like a threat. I don’t know that Finley was ever maximized in the offense. I also feel that Kendricks could be utilized better.

  4. Howard March 20, 2018

    Nelson and Graham are also within approximately 6 catches and 20 targets of each other. With Graham having more of each.

    The big negative for Graham ruptured patellar tendon. I’m waiting for someone to tell me of one elite athlete that has not had his career end or be greatly reduced when suffering that injury. Maybe Graham will be the first?

  5. tupac March 20, 2018

    I’d say the bigger question is can Graham open up the offense for the others the way Jordy did? What is it going to take to cover Jimmy, then how easy is it going to be for Adams and Cobb to beat what’s left then how easy is it going to be for Adams and Cobb to beat what’s left…

  6. KILLER March 20, 2018

    Good stats, Rob.

    Even if Graham puts up 2016 Jordy Nelson style numbers and Jordy puts up 2017 Jordy numbers with the Raiders it will not necessarily mean it was a good trade off. The situations are very different. Also, Rodgers has already been alienated by this fiasco. Also, Jordy is a much better blocking WR than Graham is a blocker as a TE. Basically anytime Graham is not catching a ball or sucking in a safety — any time he is run or pass blocking — he will be a liability to the offense. That was never true of Jordy.

  7. KILLER March 20, 2018

    You know this whole thing has been portrayed as Graham vs. Jordy or, who would you rather, cut Cobb or cut Jordy. And, I admit, I bought into that not knowing the Packers salary cap.

    But, it wasn’t, was it?

    Packers signed Kyle Fuller up for 14+ million. They had the cap space for that. They did not get Fuller of course, and either Gute the Bad is s fool or was not at all surprised. After all, they signed him to the absolutely IDEAL contract the Bears were hoping for when they transition tagged him. So, of course, naturally, understandably, PREDICTABLY, they immediately matched the offer and kept Fuller.

    So I thought: Is Gute the Bad a fool? Or did he do it as a PR thing to make himself look all active like in free agency? At first I thought those were the only two possibilities.

    But… there is a third….

    The Packers now have at least 14 million in spare unusable cap space. No one left to sign really. Sure, they can roll it over to next year. Which they do every year. Which creates a sort of interest free loan of unused money that can be used to invest. But there is no greedy owner trying to squeeze every dollar out, is there?

    So why? Well, the usual shady real estate deals at inflated prices and other ventures with inflated expenses in order to line the pockets of the crooked top brass. This stuff, like money laundering, is very easy to do and nearly undetectable. Just ask Trump.

    So Gute the Bad terminates living legend Jordy ostensibly to create needed cap space, cap space that is never used and ths not actually needed, on the premise of a contract for Fuller he knew darn well the Packers would never end up paying. Thus delivering the lovely salary cap overage they can take full advantage of. This is how the rich get richer. This is why the Packers made no real effort to bring in any outside leadership who could rock their sweet ride boat.

    Go ahead and argue most vociferously, “Hell no, Gute the Bad is just a harmless fool!” or “Hell no, Gute the Bad is just lying to us to serve his own PR/ego ends”. Well, while it is possible that one of those two is true, I must disagree. He and his top brass conies I believe are just plain crooked.

    1. tupac March 21, 2018

      What in the actual fuck…this is how the rich get richer!? No this is how a safety net of cap space is kept through a season to be used in emergency, or rolled over into next year’s cap. Every year this happens…