It's been a rocky offseason for tight ends affiliated with the New England Patriots, to say the least.
Only days after Rob Gronkowski underwent back surgery in Los Angeles, an earth-shattering event of even greater proportions shook Fantasyland. On Wednesday, Aaron Hernandez, in line for a mammoth season, was escorted away from his Attelboro home in handcuffs on charges stemming from the homicide of a Boston man. Just hours later, the Patriots, betrayed by the once budding star's actions, promptly kicked him to the curb.
Hammer ... dropped.
Obviously, the judicial process must carry out, but Hernandez's odds of seeing the field, or the light of day again, appear slim. The circumstantial evidence against him is substantial. The smoke is thick. That combined with previous incidences will likely put him under the thumb of Warden Goodell, meaning a multi-game suspension is very possible even if he's absolved and another team takes a chance on him.
The murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro linebacker for the Boston Bandits who dated Hernandez's girlfriend's sister, is no laughing matter. It's a sad, disgusting reality. The ripple effects of the incident, however, are far-reaching and will directly impact everyone who dabbles in virtual football. Whether we like it or not, spinning this forward for fantasy purposes is part of the job description.
Which Pats stand to benefit? Does His Holiness, Tim Tebow, now carry some value?
Because the NFL is a 'next man up' league, back-up tight ends Jake Ballard and Michael Hoomanawanui receive a measurable boost, especially considering Gronk's unknown length of recovery. The former is a deep sleeper and worth highlighting on your cheat sheet. Recall two years ago in New York he posted a very respectable 38-604-4 line. Upon hearing about Hernandez's release, I immediately vaulted him to No. 15 on my tight end board. Whether Gronk is available or not Week 1, he should see plenty of action. Pats OC Josh McDaniels is very fond of two TE sets. Meanwhile, the latter has proven effective in small doses, though injuries have stunted his growth as a receiver.
Shane Vereen and Aaron Dobson are two other names slated for a value boost. The rusher, slotted into the role vacated by Danny Woodhead, should see ample action working as an inside receiver, rusher and dump-off option. There's a 45-55 reception producer in that body. Meanwhile, Dobson, arguably the most sure-handed prospect in April's draft, could be featured more than originally expected. Targeted nearly 100 times at Marshall last year, he didn't drop a single pass. If the freshly inked receiver absorbs the offense quickly and earns Belichick's trust, he's a legitimate 1,000-yard 5-7 TD snoozer. Julian Edelman, assuming his foot isn't immobilized, is another player to watch. The Pats may also kick the tires on free agent Brandon Lloyd again. If not, Donald Jones could flourish opposite Dobson. He showed flashes previously in Buffalo with inept talent at QB.
As for Mr. Clicks, let's squash any rumors of him becoming a full-time tight end right now. His limited experience at the position and non-guaranteed roster spot are detrimental. He'll likely be a gimmick-type option, nothing more. Bovada's 1.5 over/under on Tebow touchdowns is spot on. And if I had zero responsibilities in life and an endless money tree dropping $100 bills in my backyard, I wouldn't think twice about laying the wood HARD on the UNDER.
Is this a major knock against Tom Brady?
Most people contend Tom Terrific could turn an overweight HTML cruncher with zero athleticism into an All-Pro. His track-record speaks for itself. Yes, he does have Danny Amendola in tow, for now, but potentially down his two best weapons, Brady handoffs to Stevan Ridley could become very prevalent. Recall last year, the Pats ran the rock 57.8 percent of the time inside the red-zone.
Excluding 2008, Brady has thrown for at least 3,900 yards and accounted for 29 total touchdowns five years running. He has been known to transform garbage into gold. However, given the circumstances and various unknowns he could resemble the 3,700, 25-28 TD passer he was earlier in his career. For that reason, he's the No. 7 ranked QB on my board, on spot behind Colin Kaepernick.
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