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With the most recent injury to Rob Gronkowski causing him the game this weekend against the 49ers, the Patriots once again turn to Martellus Bennett. Bennett is recovering from an injury of his own, and has not been particularly impressive as of late. However, with Gronk out and taking on an awful 49ers defense, this is a rare opportunity to lay the hammer with a fantasy football backup tight end.
Through nine games this season, Bennett has a respectable-for-a-TE 504 yards and four touchdowns. He’s the definite #2 tight end in the New England offense, though, which isn’t a bad thing when you’re playing second fiddle to Rob Gronkowski. However, Gronk was already banged up this season and Bennett performed well when he had to fill in for him. In the two games this season that Bennett has played without Gronk, he is averaging 9.4 fantasy points (13.4 in PPR). He averages 64 yards and scored once in his two games without Gronk (with Gronk, he averaged ten fewer yards per game, and his full-season touchdown pace is essentially the same—7 versus 8). Without Gronk, Bennett’s role changes to one closer to Gronk’s, as his yards per target goes up a good amount and he gets slightly more targets per game. He fills in well for Gronk, but he doesn’t replace him. Without Gronk, he’s a solid TE1, as his 1024 yard, 8 touchdown pace without Gronk puts him squarely between 2015 Greg Olsen and Gary Barnidge in terms of production. In short: without Gronk, Marty B feasts.
The 49ers are a mixed bag against tight ends this season. They haven’t played many of value, and the half-way decent tight ends they’ve played (Brate, Fleener, Witten) all had games that could only be described as disappointing. However, two games loom large when considering the San Francisco defense against Bennett this weekend: a two game stretch where they gave up 222 yards and two touchdowns to Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham. These were the only two tight ends on their schedule so far who could be considered in the top-ten in 2016 (Witten’s best days are behind him). This does not bode well for the 49ers’ defense this weekend, especially considering the Niners weren’t on both backup inside linebackers at that point.
This weekend is going to be whatever type of game Tom Brady wants it to be. It’s been much discussed that this is his first, and likely, only time he will play in his “home town” as he grew up halfway between Candlestick and Levi’s. Plus the 49ers drafted one of the “Brady 6” who went ahead of him. Plus the 49ers stink out loud on defense. Plus Tom Brady’s on his quest to smash the league. Plus the 49ers stink out loud on defense (I had to mention it twice). Bennett has performed as a top-half TE1 without Gronk, and he will continue tat this weekend. I’d start him over everyone but Delanie Walker this weekend.