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The Ramifications Of Rob Gronkowski’s Season-Ending Injury

Gronkowski Injury

Last week was no doubt a crusher for many of you with your fantasy football playoffs approaching as the NFL’s top tight end, New England’s Rob Gronkowski, was lost for the rest of the season due to a herniated disc in his back. Gronkowski was a first-round pick in all of my various fantasy leagues. The guy is a fantasy superstar when healthy but that’s why I never recommend drafting him too high: Gronk just can’t stay on the field. He’s just such a physical guy that his body can’t keep up. This is already a third major back surgery dating to his days at the University of Arizona.

This is not great news for Tom Brady owners, either. Sure, the Patriots are still Super Bowl favorites at Casino Pros, but Brady simply doesn’t put up the same numbers without his favorite target. Gronk joined the NFL in 2010 and entering this past weekend had been out with injury in 19 games. Brady started 17 of those. He completed just 57.3 percent of his passes for 6.5 yards per attempt and a rating of 82.4. When Gronk has played, Brady completes 65.3 percent of his passes for 7.9 yards per attempt and a rating of 103.5. Brady’s red-zone Total QBR drops by nearly 35 points when the All-Pro tight end isn’t on the field. The 6-foot-6 Gronk is obviously an inviting red zone target.

In Week 13 against the Rams without Gronk, Brady completed an excellent 71.7 percent of his passes but for only 269 yards on 46 attempts — just 5.85 yards per attempt. He had one touchdown pass, his second-fewest of the season. The Patriots score four fewer points per game overall when Gronk is out. I’m not saying to bench Brady the rest of your fantasy football season, but he faces good defenses in Week 14 (Baltimore) and Week 15 (Denver likely in wintry weather). So at least consider alternatives.

As for Gronk owners, there are likely some solid pickups available on the waiver wire because most teams don’t carry two tight ends. It’s not worth the roster spot because if you have one excellent tight end like Gronk or Kansas City’s Travis Kelce or Carolina’s Greg Olsen, then you are playing that guy every week but his bye. Here are some guys I would recommend — and the other New England tight end, Martellus Bennett, isn’t one of them. He has done very little since a three-touchdown game on Oct. 9 in Cleveland.

Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay: Mike Evans is clearly Jameis Winston’s top target on the surging Buccaneers, but the Harvard graduate Brate is becoming No. 2. He has been targeted 66 times and caught 47 passes for 528 yards and six scores. The Bucs close the season with four mediocre defensive teams in the Saints twice, the Cowboys and Panthers. And because Tampa Bay is playing for a division title, you know Brate will be in there all the time.

Hunter Henry, San Diego: Henry would be a smart dynasty stash as the second-round rookie is going to be Antonio Gates’ long-term replacement with the Chargers. Gates is rarely targeted any more by Philip Rivers, while Henry has five TD catches. San Diego faces the Panthers Week 14 and Browns Week 16, two of the worst defenses against the tight end.

C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston: Yeah, it’s tough to trust anyone who must rely on Brock Osweiler (the bust of the fantasy season along with Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins), but Fiedorowicz has been targeted by Osweiler at least seven times in six of the past eight games.

Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh: Green was likely drafted in your league as he was expected to have a big season in that high-powered Steelers offense. However, injuries ruined Green’s start to the season and he was perhaps released. Green is coming on like gangbusters following a six-catch, 110-yard, one-TD effort vs. the Giants in Week 13.

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