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First Down: Cuts like a knife! Gronk’s forearm not feeling so right

Brad Evans
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Gronk's availability for Week 1 is in serious jeopardy. (USAT)

Arm surgery, partying, infection, partying, rehab, partying – it’s been an offseason filled with anesthesia and booze for Rob Gronkowski.

With recent reports about the former Pro Bowler’s recovery from a broken forearm ranging from glowingly optimistic to frustratingly somber, pinpointing exactly what the tight end is worth has been an exercise in futility. However, Wednesday’s news, as first reported by the Boston Herald, finally provided clarity prospective buyers were looking for. The lowdown:

According to a source familiar with the case, Gronkowski is going to need a fourth operation to change the plate that’s securing the broken bone in the forearm.

While there has been some suggestion recently that this step might be avoided, the source indicated the fourth operation still has to happen. The plate has to be switched, no matter what, and the surrounding tissue tested. The real question is if Gronkowski, who has been taking part in the team’s offseason program, will need a fifth operation.

If tests show the infection has been completely flushed out, the plate will be replaced, and the recovery process begins. If there are still signs of infection, that won’t happen.

That’s a scenario no one wants to contemplate. Ultimately, Gronkowski would need more surgery and his participation for the start of the season and perhaps beyond would be in jeopardy.

Obviously, the above info is a significant blow to Gronk and the Patriots. With fellow batterymate, Aaron Hernandez, and backup wideout Julian Edelman, also uncertain for Week 1, it’s entirely possible Tom Brady will chuck passes exclusively to ex-Rams Danny Amendola and Michael Hoomanawanui and rookie receiver Aaron Dobson early on; potentially well into the regular season. That’s not necessarily a downgrade for Brady. Because of the system and with plenty of time to build chemistry, the Pats passing offense may not skip a beat. However, it certainly fosters questions and was reason enough for yours truly to drop him from No. 4 to No. 6, behind Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, in my initial QB ranks.

To overcome the potential Gronk void, Bill Belichick will invariably adapt, possibly emphasizing ball control. A two-pronged ground attack featuring Stevan Ridley (ADP: 20.5, RB15) and Shane Vereen could be deployed heavily to begin the season, bolstering the rushers’ draft day values. Recall with the oversized target sidelined from Weeks 12-16 last year, The Riddler scored 15.7, 13.1, 13.2, 2.3 and 8.4 fantasy points. The second-to-last performance was a Debbie Downer, but when considering the unyielding opponent, San Francisco, it was completely understandable. This year, the Patriots open with Buffalo and the New York Jets, teams that ranked No. 31 and No. 26, respectively, versus the run last year. If immediate improvements aren't made by the Pats' divisional foes, The Riddler could be one of the most fawned over RBs in Fantasyland out of the gate.

As for Gronk, a fourth, and potentially fifth, surgical procedure would place him on the clearance rack. In three ‘expert’ mocks executed this past week, he went No. 11 (REACH!), No. 31 and No. 60 overall. Assuming he does indeed go under the knife at least one more time, his ADP will surely plummet, presumably outside the top-60 (Current ADP: 32.5, TE2). Though his short-term value is complicated, he would be worth the moderate risk even if his recovery lingered into October. Remember, his 13.2 fantasy points per game average last year ranked No. 3, behind Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall, among WRs/TEs. A healthy Gronk would be worth every penny in Round 2 of a 12-team draft, but as of today, he’s my No. 6 ranked TE behind Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Dennis Pitta and Hernandez. And given the incredible depth at TE this year that’s likely a stretch. Titus Young's fantasy stock may offer more security.

Time inevitably heals all wounds, but for arguably the most cherished tight end in Fantasyland, another lengthy recovery could prove very damaging.

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