You're not going to find a fulfilling replacement when a player like Rob Gronkowski gets hurt. You'll address the need and fill the hole, sure, but you're not going to find another spike machine waiting for you on the waiver wire. In situations like this, you make the best of it, you try to limited the damage. I have no overly optimistic spin for you today, Gronk owners. It's a cruel game sometimes.
The shame of it all is that anyone who drafted Gronkowski in 2012 was surely content over the selection. Although the Regression Police were all over Gronkowski's case prior to the year, the third-year tight end justified his draft position easily through 10 games (53 catches, 748 yards, 10 touchdowns). Gronkowski towers over the tight-end tote board; only Tony Gonzalez (64-650-6) and Jimmy Graham (51-562-8) can even see him without a telescope. The No. 4 tight end, Jason Witten, has just one touchdown. Heath Miller, the current No. 5 scorer, is probably sunk while Ben Roethlisberger is out.
Today's assignment is to dig deeper and try to find something for nothing. Gronkowski's broken forearm might cost him 3-4 weeks and it might cost him two months. Fantasy owners need to be prepared to go Gronkless for the rest of the year. Let's see what's out there for free at the tight end position. Maybe an old friend doing sneaky things in Tampa Bay can help us.
Hello there, Dallas Clark. I'll admit, I thought you were dead from a fantasy perspective not long ago. Too injury prone. Too limited in upside. The Indianapolis years were nice, but it was time to move on.
Clark's recent play has me rethinking that stance. He's been a Top 10 fantasy tight end over the last five weeks (18 catches, 174 yards, three touchdowns), and his overtime spike in Week 11 clinched Tampa's victory at Carolina. Clark isn't posting pinball stats, mind you, but he's been productive, clicking nicely with sizzling quarterback Josh Freeman.
The Clark case gets more interesting when you look at Tampa Bay's upcoming fantasy schedule. I crunched the SOS Grid for the tight end position this afternoon (see below), looking back at two months of data and looking ahead at the final five fantasy weeks. Tampa Bay gets the coveted yellow jersey, looking at these opponents: Atlanta, at Denver, Philadelphia, at New Orleans, St. Louis. If Clark can stay healthy through the holiday season - that's always been the rub with him - he looks like a nifty plug-and-play.
Best of all, he's owned in just 12 percent of Yahoo! leagues as we go to post. You'll find him on most of your shopping shelves.
Let's consider some other potential fill-ins, working up and down the ownership level.
-- Colleague Andy Behrens listed three strong TE options in his Yahoo! Fantasy Minute Segment: Brandon Myers (40 percent owned), Dwayne Allen (15 percent) and Marcedes Lewis (seven percent). The Raiders are a fantasy carnival all the way (the defense can't stop anyone; most games are high-scoring), and Oakland's also struggled to run the ball. I'm surprised Myers is as widely available as he currently is. Lewis gets a boost from the switch to Chad Henne; this offense wasn't going anywhere with Blaine Gabbert.
-- If you're in a shallower league, you might get lucky with a Martellus Bennett (51 percent) or Kyle Rudolph (50 percent) on your wire; they're both coming off bye weeks, so perhaps they were dropped in some pools. If only we all were so lucky. Jared Cook (40 percent) is a trick-or-treat commodity, but the schedule plays nicely for him down the stretch. Scott Chandler (40 percent) has the full trust of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
-- Dustin Keller (38 percent) didn't do much in Week 11, but I figure he'll find some free space against the Patriots secondary this week. The Jets obviously don't have much to boast off outside the numbers.
-- Logan Paulsen (three percent) only had one grab in Washington's Week 11 victory, though it went for a touchdown. He was active in the three games in front of the bye (13-178). The Shanahans know how to design big plays to their tight ends.
-- Anyone want to take a deep shot with Houston's emerging Garrett Graham? He found the end zone in Week 9 against Buffalo, he had three short catches the following week in Chicago, and then he went off against the Jags in Week 11 (8-82, two scores). The Texans don't have much depth at the wide receiver position, which means Graham should keep seeing regular targets.
Tight End Strength of Schedule, Weeks 12-16
Teams are ranked from most valuable to least favorable schedules remaining.
1. Buccaneers: ATL, @DEN, PHI, @NO, STL
2. Giants: GB, @WAS, NO, @ATL, @BAL
3. Niners: @NO, @STL, MIA, @NE, @SEA
4. Jaguars: TEN, @BUF, NYJ, @MIA, NE
5. Cowboys: WAS, PHI, @CIN, PIT, NO
6. Falcons: @TB, NO, @CAR, NYG, @DET
7. Ravens: @SD, PIT, @WAS, DEN, NYG
8. Browns: PIT, @OAK, KC, WAS, @DEN
9. Eagles: CAR, @DAL, @TB, CIN, WAS
10. Titans: @JAC, HOU, @IND, NYJ, @GB
11. Dolphins: SEA, NE, @SF, JAC, BUF
12. Texans: @DET, @TEN, @NE, IND, MIN
13. Lions: HOU, IND, @GB, @ARI, ATL
14. Saints: SF, @ATL, @NYG, TB, @DAL
15. Cardinals: STL, @NYJ, @SEA, DET, CHI
16. Chiefs: DEN, CAR, @CLE, @OAK, IND
17. Colts: BUF, @DET, TEN, @HOU, @KC
18. Raiders: @CIN, CLE, DEN, KC, @CAR
19. Panthers: @PHI, @KC, ATL, @SD, OAK
20. Chargers: BAL, CIN, @PIT, CAR, @NYJ
21, Patriots: @NYJ, @MIA, HOU, SF, @JAC
22. Vikings: @CHI, @GB, CHI, @STL, @HOU
23. Bills: @IND, JAC, STL, SEA, @MIA
24. Packers: @NYG, MIN, DET, @CHI, TEN
25. Jets: NE, ARI, @JAC, @TEN, SD
26. Redskins: @DAL, NYG, BAL, @CLE, @PHI
27. Rams: @ARI, SF, @BUF, MIN, @TB
28. Broncos: @KC, TB, @OAK, @BAL, CLE
29. Bears: MIN, SEA, @MIN, GB, @ARI
30. Bengals: OAK, @SD, DAL, @PHI, @PIT
31. Steelers: @CLE, @BAL, SD, @DAL, CIN
32. Seahawks: @MIA, @CHI, ARI, @BUF, SF