Earlier today, it was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will not play in Week 1, likely pushing his return (at earliest) to Week 6 after he is placed on the reserve/PUP list
Granted, we don’t know how effective Gronkowski will be when he does return – and that’s assuming he does actually return which isn’t even a given at this point.
In season’s past, the Patriots have been a powerhouse for fantasy points in regards to the tight end position. Both now without both Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, how are things going to shake out for New England?
The most likely scenario (a sentiment ESPN Boston seems to agree with) is Jake Ballard taking over Gronkowski’s role in the offense, which isn’t exactly a dream scenario for fantasy players. While Ballard is a fine tight end, he’s better used in a blocking role, something that running back Stevan Ridley will benefit from more than your fantasy team.
Of course, with Tom Brandy calling the shots, anybody with a set of hands has value so don’t automatically assume Ballard wont be of use – he will be. I just don’t know if the cost is worth the value. Granted, if you can pick him up at a relatively cost effective price, do so, but I wouldn’t overspend.
On the flip side we have rookie Zach Sudfeld who is the better pass catching tight end between he and Ballard. He figures to fit into the vacated role left by Aaron Hernandez and at 6’7 should prove to be an effective target for Brady, especially near the end zone. If I was going to pick a Patriots tight end from a fantasy perspective, I’d take Sudfeld over Ballard time after time.
Sadly, when Gronk returns (assuming he does) it’s likely Sudfeld will return to a backup role though you might be able to strike a bit of gold in the early weeks of the season with the rookie tight end, who also makes a great handcuff to Gronkowski if need be.