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Rob Gronkowski: Worst-Case Scenario Fantary Football Draft Strategy

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Rob Gronkowski: Worst Case Scenario Draft Strategy

Greg M. Cooper USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has seen his fair share of criticism for his forearm injuries, surgeries and subsequent infection. However the thing that is the most concerning is the spinal stenosis operation he went through this offseason.

Although it came as a surprise to some fans the fact that Gronkowski would need surgery for spinal stenosis has been known by the Patriots organization since they drafted him 42nd overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. The reality is the more rest and recovery time the Patriots give Gronkowski now, the longer his career will be. At the same time, Aaron Hernandez being released, due to his legal troubles, means they need Gronkowski more in the later part of this season and the latter part of his career than they do in the first couple of weeks of the 2013 season. This all points to Gronkowski staying on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the first six weeks of the season.

So what does this mean if you want to draft him to your Fantasy Team?

For one I think if you grab Gronkowski in the 4th or 5th round then you absolutely have to prepare for the worst case scenario, and he won’t be available to you until Week 7. This means you’ll have to platoon him with another tight end who doesn’t have a bye before Week 7. You also have to consider that Week 10 is the Patriots' bye, so you will want to avoid platooning Gronkowski with a player on those teams as well.

This eliminates tight ends from the following teams: Carolina Panthers, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets.

Now unless your league has a Flex Position that also allows you to play a tight end you probably aren’t going to invest in another Top 10 tight end. Here are your 5 best options to platoon Gronkowski with.

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OPTION 5: Martellus Bennett

Jerry Lai USA TODAY Sports

Martellus Bennett started his career in Jason Witten's shadow before breaking out for New York Giants last year. He comes now to the Chicago Bears where he will play the role of Jay Cutler's pass catching tight end. In the past when Cutler has had a quality pass catching tight end he has made ample use of him. Mark Trestman's style of offense is one that creates matchups that exploit linebackers and single coverage.

All of these things point to opportunity for Bennett. One of the few negatives against this sleeper candidate is the poor play of the Bears offensive line might call for him stay home and block more than you’d like in a starting tight end. You should be able to take him as late as the 13th round and he can keep you afloat until Week 7.

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OPTION 4: Brandon Myers

Brad Penne USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Myers takes over Martellus Bennett's spot for the New York Giants after spending last year catching passes from Carson Palmer with the Oakland Raiders. Myers has the talent to succeed in the Giants' system, which calls for a pass catching tight end. Like Bennett, there is a concern that rookie Justin Pugh's maturation and the pass blocking issues of David Wilson will call for Myers to be asked to block early on. You should be able to take him as late as the 12th round and see him put up a serviceable stat line.

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Option 3: Jared Cook

Ron Schwane USA TODAY Sports

Jared Cook was drafted by Jeff Fisher and the Tennessee Titans in 2009. Fisher of course was shown the door early in Cook’s career and his development stalled out. Cook now joins the St. Louis Rams and the coach who coveted him four years ago. He joins an offense with a talented quarterback and very few other pass catching options. It is very possible that Cook will lead the Rams in receptions and touchdowns this year.

If he falls to the 11th round you should grab him.

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Option 2: Owen Daniels

Brett Davis USA TODAY Sports

Before tearing his ACL late in the 2009 season, Owen Daniels was one of the most talented tight ends in the NFL. He was slow to come back from the ACL, and once he was back to full strength he found the face of the offense had changed to a greater focus on the run. In recent years the Houston Texans have arguably lost balance on offense and are looking to once again emphasize the pass. With Andre Johnson and rookie sensation DeAndre Hopkins drawing the focus of opposing defenses Daniels could again roam free over the middle.

If he falls to as late as the 10th round I would snatch him up. Even when Gronkowski comes back, if your team allows for a flex position, you could conceivably start both tight ends.

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OPTION 1: Antonio Gates

Christopher Hanewinckel USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Gates used to be the most electrifying tight end in Fantasy Football. Multiple foot and ankle injuries have reduced his value and cost him a step. However, his basketball bred knowledge of body position and the fact that he is Phillip Rivers' most trusted pass catcher will give him an edge. Serious losses in the San Diego Chargers wide receiver corps means more balls will be thrown Gates' way.