Rob Gronkowski reportedly did not make the flight out to Arizona Friday, meaning that he will not be available for Sunday. While this is obviously terrible news for his fantasy football owners that he won’t be playing, it is good news that we already know he will be out. Martellus Bennett is the obvious answer here, but he is owned in 87% of leagues, so he likely won’t be available for you to grab off the waiver wire. These are five options for you to take a shot at replacing Gronk’s production that is currently available in 50% or more of Yahoo! Fantasy Football leagues. Players are listed in order of ownership.
Vance McDonald vs. Los Angeles (23% owned)
Chip Kelly’s offense is tailored to feature the tight end. In many plays, the TE is the very first read. Your gut reaction tells you that taking on the Rams’ stout defense is a bad proposition, and you would be right, except for the tight end. The Rams gave up the thirteenth most fantasy points per game last season to TEs so starting one against them was a middle-of-the-road matchup. The 49ers are not good, but neither were last years’ 49ers and let’s not forget how feisty they got for Monday Night Football week one last year. Vance could be this year’s Carlos Hyde’s late night week one breakout performance with a line that mirrors his preseason stats (6 catches, 94 yards, and a score).
Jesse James at Washington (19% owned)
James isn’t a huge standout of any type, but he is the perfect confluence of opportunities. He’s unowned in 80% of leagues, but this is mostly because of the lingering question marks surrounding Ladarius Green.
The Steelers love the tight end, mostly because of Heath Miller, but ether way, he will be a big part of the offense. He’ll likely be Ben’s release valve if Antonio Brown is covered given his massive 6’7” frame.
He won’t have a ton of yards, but could get a ton of catches, low yards, and likely a score coming from near the goal line. The Pittsburgh-Washington game is going to be a shootout, and if you’re desperate, there are worse situations to enter than a primetime shootout.
Clive Walford at New Orleans (16% owned)
Walford is my favorite of these options. He’s a young, athletic tight end taking on the Saints in New Orleans. This means two things: first, the game is going to be a shootout so large, it will make PIT-WAS look like a 13-14 knockdown drag-out slugfest. Second, the Saints were the worst in the NFL at stopping tight end production last season and haven’t done anything to stem that fact (12.19 fantasy points per game last year).
The Raiders threw it to the tight end a lot last year, but those ~100 targets were split between Walford and Mychal Rivera. With Walford set to get the lions’ share of those targets this year, he is due for a breakout. That starts Sunday in the Big Easy. Even if you don’t have Gronk, Walford is worth a look.
These last two options are for the exceptionally desperate, but if you’re hitting up players available in 90% of leagues or more, you’re going for the Hail Mary Option.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins at Atlanta (9% owned)
I believe in ASJ. A physical freak, Seferian-Jenkins took a backseat to J.A.G.-incarnate Cameron Brate after ASJ could not stay healthy last year. After that, ASJ had issues through OTAs, mini-camp and preseason, including a tirade directed at head coach Dirk Koetter. Fast forward to today and ASJ & Brat are co-TE1s.
If the coaching staff didn’t love the talent, Seferian-Jenkins wouldn’t even be on this roster, let alone co-TE1. They’re obviously hoping he cools it on the knuckleheadedness and gets back to the hyper-productive monster that caught our attention at the beginning of last season. He gets the opportunity to feast against the Falcons, who allowed the fifth-most points to tight ends last year. The job is ASJ’s to wrest away from Brate.
Tyler Kroft at New York Jets (3% owned)
With Tyler Eifert benched with a lingering ankle issue, the Bengals hope for another Tyler to step up and fill his role as a red zone target. If you’re looking at tight ends that are available in 19-of-20 leagues, you’re playing the odds that you’re getting a tight end that will score a touchdown.Given how often Andy Dalton went to Eifert for touchdowns last season (13 of Eifert’s 52 catches were for scores), Kroft is a good bet to get an end zone target or two.
If he scrapes out 20 yards and a score, consider this a huge victory if you were forced to dive this deep. The Jets were second in preventing fantasy points to tight ends, but allowed at least 70 yards to the position in three of the last four games last year when a TE received more than one target (Buffalo gave Nick O’Leary one target in week seventeen, without points).
Rob Gronkowski himself stated that he was “week-to-week,” so this is a situation to monitor. Walford and McDonald have the baseline for weekly production given their offenses, and Jesse James is on the verge of seeing the same value.
ASJ will have to fend off Cameron Brate if he is to see value in week two, and Kroft’s value will nosedive the second Tyler Eifert returns. Of these five tight ends, I would go, Walford, McDonald, James, ASJ and Kroft for this week.