- Rob Gronkowski is facing a one-game suspension in Week 14, the first week of the fantasy playoffs in most leagues. Where should his owners turn?
The NFL suspended Rob Gronkowski for Week 14 for violation of the league’s unnecessary roughness rules. Gronkowski deliberately hit Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White in the back of the head well after a play had ended late in the Patriots win over the Bills on Sunday.
Gronkowski is appealing the suspension, but it’s hard to imagine the league rescinding punishment for an obvious cheap shot that gave White a concussion and was totally outside the bounds of regular play. The Patriots visit the Dolphins in Week 14, a team they beat by 18 points just two weeks ago. The Patriots may not miss Gronkowski, but fantasy owners certainly will, especially since Week 14 is the first week of the playoffs in most leagues.
Fantasy owners in need of a tight end to replace Gronkowski in Week 14 will want to check out the following options, in the order listed below. All are available in at least 40% of Yahoo or CBS leagues.
Cameron Brate, Buccaneers
Brate had his best game in nearly two months on Sunday, turning both of his catches into touchdowns and a total of 39 yards. He got six targets, as well, four more than rookie O.J. Howard. That this happened to be Jameis Winston’s first start in a month is not a coincidence. Winston has leaned on Brate in the red zone for the better part of two seasons, and that was back in full effect in Week 13. With Winston expected to start the rest of the season, assuming his shoulder holds up, Brate is back on the low-end TE1 radar.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jets
Seferian-Jenkins has a much lower ownership rate on Yahoo than he does on CBS, so some of you may be out of luck if you try to add him. If he’s available in your league, though, he’d be just what you’re looking for in a short-term fix. Seferian-Jenkins averages just shy of six targets per game and is one of Josh McCown’s go-to weapons in the red zone, giving him plenty of touchdown upside. What’s more, he has a great matchup with a Broncos defense that is ranked 29th in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA). The strength of the Broncos pass defense is in cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, and that forces quarterbacks to use the middle of the field more often than they might against other defenses. That could lead to more volume than usual for Seferian-Jenkins this week.
Trey Burton, Eagles
Zach Ertz is in concussion protocol, which means his owners could be looking for a replacement, too. Burton is a capable stand-in should Ertz miss this week’s game with the Rams. Ertz has missed all or most of two games this season. In those two contests, Burton had six catches for 83 yards and a score, hitting the 40-yard mark in both of them. At the very least, he’ll have the requisite touchdown upside to get into the low-end TE1 discussion. For what it’s worth, the Rams rank ninth in tight end aFPA, so Burton will have his hands full.
Tyler Kroft, Bengals
Kroft has been limited with a hand injury this week, but it’s not expected to keep him out of the Bengals Monday night game with the Steelers. He, too, has touchdown upside attendant with being one of Andy Dalton’s favorite targets in the red zone. The Bengals host the Bears in Week 14, and while the Bears have been better than league average against tight ends, they have struggled in recent weeks. Ertz burned them for 10 catches, 103 yards and a touchdown in Week 12, while George Kittle and Garrett Celek combined for four grabs for 50 yards on Sunday. Kittle also narrowly missed a touchdown, coming down just out of bounds.
Julius Thomas, Dolphins
Thomas has been on a bit of a touchdown hot streak, finding the end zone in three of his last five games. He has 20 catches on 27 targets for 194 yards in that span, topping 50 yards in two of the five contests. The Dolphins will, of course, be on the other side of the Gronkowski-less Patriots on Monday Night Football in Week 14. Thomas caught all three of his targets for 52 yards against the Patriots in Week 12.
David Njoku, Browns
Njoku had the best game thus far of his rookie season in Week 13, catching four passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. While the fantasy community could understandably expect his volume to dip with the return of Josh Gordon, he had six targets in the Browns loss to the Chargers, just the third time this season he has had that many looks from his quarterback. All three of those games have come in the team’s last five contests. That signals a desire to get him more involved in the offense with the Browns already looking ahead to 2018. The matchup with the Packers isn’t necessarily great, but Njoku brings major upside to the table every time he steps on the field.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Cardinals
Seals-Jones didn’t get his first target of the season until Week 11. In the three games where he has been part of the offense, he has nine catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns. You don’t need me to tell you that’s an unsustainable pace. Instead, the takeaway should be that the Cardinals are making a concerted effort to get the rookie tight end involved over the final third of the season. He has 16 targets in his last three games, translating to a respectable average of 5.3 targets per game. The Titans, the Cardinals opponent in Week 14, are slightly worse than league average in tight end aFPA, but not bad enough for it to truly qualify as a plus-matchup for Seals-Jones. As such, he’s the lowest-graded replacement for Gronkowski in Week 14.