Heading into the past month, one would easily have been able to argue that the New England Patriots were the only team in the National Football League with a tight end tandem featuring two players worthy of starting on your fantasy team. My how time flies in the NFL. In today’s fantasy update, we look at how the Patriots’ tight end situation has drastically changed just weeks before the start of fantasy drafting.
Rob Gronkowski was an elite tight end heading into last season. The warning signs began to surface earlier in the off season, when the tight end underwent four procedures to repair a broken arm suffered last season. However an arm injury is one thing, a back injury is another. Back injuries tend to linger into the season, and can cause a player to miss a lot of time if tweaked again. Gronkowski just underwent a back operation, and as a result is going to be a major injury risk this year.
If he is healthy enough to play, you need to start him, however his draft stock is probably going to take a hit as a result of his injury history. Players labeled as fragile typically aren’t the ones you want to waste a high draft pick on in your fantasy league. Waiting until the middle rounds, maybe around the fourth round, is where I would begin to see selecting Gronkowski selected.
Someone in your league will probably reach for him before that point if it looks like he will be playing, but don’t panic. Let the other person draft him and deal with the injury bug that is almost assuredly going to bite.
Aaron Hernandez, for a few days at least, looked like he was going to become the beneficiary of any time Gronk had to miss this year. Hernandez had looked like a starting caliber tight end, perhaps even with the ability to become elite, in his three seasons with the Patriots. However his stock has suffered more than any other player in fantasy football the last two days.
Reports have surfaced that Hernandez is not cooperating in a murder investigation. It is the second violent crime that he is involved in during this off season alone. The previous charges are from a lawsuit against the tight end claiming that he shot a man in the head after an altercation stemming from a night on the town.
Recent investigations into the death of 27 year old Odin Lloyd have deep connections to Hernandez. His girlfriend’s sister was dating the victim, and he was seen leaving a bar with him the night of the murder. Hernandez also hired a cleaning staff for his house before police could search it and destroyed surveillance equipment.
A pending murder investigation is not something you want plaguing your fantasy team. It appears likely that he will be arrested for his connections to the incident.
Enter Tim Tebow and Jake Ballard. These two men didn’t belong on anyone’s fantasy radar just a week ago. However now that both have become members of the New England Patriots via free agency, the chances look good that both will see quite a bit of action in the regular season.
Jake Ballard is a former New York Giant coming off an ACL injury last season, he likely is the next man in line to receive a spot on the starting roster if either of the top two misses time. Ballard has shown flashes as a quality receiving option with Eli Manning, and switching to Tom Brady surely will boost his performance.
Tim Tebow is currently a third string quarterback on the team, although people have long suggested that he would benefit from switching to tight end. He has the size and running ability to thrive with the ball in his hands. Here’s a vote that Belichick and Tebow come to the conclusion that the team will be better off with him on the field than off it.
Look for Tebow to emerge in spot duty at first, probably in the red zone as he has a nose for finding the end zone. If he is successful in this limited role, the team will surely make it Tebow Time at the tight end position.
Tebow is surely a late round pick, perhaps even available in the last round of your draft, huge upside if either tight end above him appears likely to miss time this season. Worth a draft pick, but handcuff him with a starter from another team in case he doesn’t make the switch to tight end.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express