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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski

What to do, what to do?  It's hard to decipher the situation in the New England offense this year and how we should approach it from a fantasy football perspective.  I have some thoughts and strategic ways to approach the situation, so thank you for joining me here at the Brain.

I will make zero editorial comment on the current situation with Aaron Hernandez, but it is safe to say there is a lot going on.  The bottom line is that he might miss time this year.  He may also be distracted from his job while he is working.  Possibly both.  For fantasy he's just probably not someone you can trust since he could be in and out of the lineup.  These factors are killing his fantasy value on draft day.

So much so that there will be leagues where no one wants to gamble on Hernandez at all.  If that happens in your league, you could have yourself a buying opportunity.

Let's delve into the strategy.  For Hernandez or any other player with high-profile issues there is some percentage of fantasy players who have made up their mind to just stay away.  They aren't going to take the guy no matter what.  Maybe it's 30%.  Maybe 80%.  Whatever it is, there is a chance that all of the other owners in your league are in that percentage.  In other words, if half of all fantasy football managers are staying away from a particular player that does not mean that exactly six guys in a twelve team league are out on that player.  In one specific league it could be any number, maybe everyone.

So, if Hernandez is being valued as a seventh rounder (for example) due to his issues maybe that is where he is drafted.  Perhaps someone in your league is a believer and takes him in the sixth round.  But, what if he doesn't go in the eighth or even the ninth round?  When the ninth round rolls around you've got a guy sitting there with big risk but huge upside.  I mean, if he plays a significant part of the season he could be Tom Brady's top target, which is to say that he'll have tons of value.

The play here goes back to my '20/20 Vision' plan that I teach in "The Program."  I like to see 60% (three out of every five) of your draft picks to be solid, steady players and 20% (one of every five) of your draft picks as upside "sleeper" picks.  The remaining 20%?  Those guys should be the boom or bust types that can win a league for you.  Aaron Hernandez as late as the eighth or ninth round qualifies.  In a normal draft you want to try to get three of those guys throughout your picks, and Hernandez is a candidate.

And, so is Rob Gronkowski.  We all saw the damage he could do with his historic season in 2011.  His numbers in 2012 look like a significant reduction from the year before, but if you examine his per-game numbers they aren't far off of 2011 at all.

Check it out:
  • 2011 : 16 games - 90 receptions (5.6/game) - 1,327 yards (83/game) - 17 TD (1.1/game)
  • 2012 : 11 games - 55 receptions (5.0/game) - 790 yards (72/game) - 11 TD (1.0/game)

Sure, five surgeries in just the past year are cause for big concern.  Sure, he'll start the pre-season on the PUP list.  Okay, fine.  He's got some risk, but last year he was going in the first round of fantasy drafts all over the place due to 5.6 receptions for 83 yards and 1.1 TD's per game.  As banged up as he was last year he still got 5 receptions for 72 yards and 1.0 TD's per game.

Plus, the dude's still only 24 years old.  He might be getting better.

To put a finer point on it he scored about 20 points a week in PPR two years ago and still got you 18 points per week last year.  In standard leagues it was more like 15 points in 2011 and 13 last year.  So, can he do that again this year?  Absolutely.

And what if I told you his current ADP is in the fifth round?  Yes, please.

The great thing about Gronk is that his ADP (average draft position) probably won't improve, which means his value should remain.  There won't be a lot of news about him since he'll be on the pre-season PUP list and other players might actually pass him on the ADP list.

Even if he only plays 12 games this year, I'll take his 18 points per game in those and supplement with a Kyle Rudolph type of guy for the rest of the season.  Sounds like a solid strategy to me.

Okay, one last thought about the New England tight ends.  There are a lack of weapons for Tom Brady these days which means he may be forced to go to the tight ends.  Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, and Danny Woodhead left in free agency and have basically been replaced by Danny Amendola.  You'll also see more of Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen, but those guys were there last year.

You have got to conclude that the receiving situation is greatly downgraded in New England.  Look, Brady is a magnificent quarterback so he might be able to make a lot of chicken salad this year but the fact is that he's going to have to pull a lot of rabbits out of his hat to do so.

The tight ends will be leaned upon a lot in 2013.  When they are in uniform they will score buckets of fantasy points, so we hope they suit up more often than not.  There is a lot of profit potential within the uncertainty that these two guys represent.