Caleb Hanie, Toby Gerhart and Kevin Smith lead the way in week 12
The bye weeks are finally over and now we can just roll with what we’ve got. But what if injuries and poor play from your roster means you don’t have enough? Well, in an effort to guide you through the playoff push, here’s a look at who will be some of the hot commodities off the fantasy football waiver wire in Week 12. Some of them I think are decent plays for this week and maybe beyond, but most of the wire has players that should probably stay right there.
This year’s crop of tight ends is, without a doubt, the deepest in fantasy football history.
The undisputed heavyweight champion continues to be Antonio Gates, who has scored eight or more TDs in each of the last seven seasons and topped 900 yards five times — which doesn’t include the 782 yards he amassed in 10 games last season (his first year with fewer than 15 games played). On draft day, value Gates as a top-10 WR option who happens to qualify at TE.
Physical freaks such as Vernon Davis, Brandon Pettigrew and Jermichael Finley have shown signs of Gates-like (or Gates Lite) potential. Over the past two seasons, Davis has been Gates’ equal statistically — with 1,879 yards and 20 TDs to Gates’ 1,939 yards and 18 TDs — despite being drafted several rounds lower on average. But the workout warrior’s first three seasons combined (1,132 yards and nine TDs from 2006-08) produced numbers Gates can match in one All-Pro year.
On the surface, old reliables like Dallas Clark, Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez seem safer than the young guns. But keep in mind that last year Clark played just six games (wrist), and Gonzo had his worst season since 1998. Witten, however, posted his fourth straight 950-plus-yard year with a career high nine TDs.
After those first seven are off the board, you can afford to wait a few rounds before debating on taking one-half of the Patriots’ second-year two-headed monster — Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski (a.k.a. Aarob Hernankowski) — or one of the power forward-framed upsiders — 6'6", 260-pounder Jimmy Graham (a Drew Brees favorite) and 6'6", 275-pounder Marcedes Lewis (10 TDs in ’10, 7 combined from ’06-09).
If a proven track record is more your style, keep waiting. There’s always Zach Miller and Chris Cooley, who both have quarterback concerns; or Owen Daniels and Kellen Winslow, who each have had injury issues. Further emphasizing the seemingly bottomless pool of this year’s tight end talent, there is a mix of breakout candidates — Dustin Keller, Jermaine Gresham, Tony Moeaki, Jared Cook and Kyle Rudolph — and familiar faces — Heath Miller, Benjamin Watson, Kevin Boss, Greg Olsen and Visanthe Shiancoe.
The tight end class is loaded. Pick a few options from each tier and then see how the draft plays out. Savvy drafters should get excellent value on a tight end with Pro Bowl (and fantasy stud) potential this year. Or, you can always just play it safe, take Antonio Gates in the third round and let everyone else in the room sweat it out.
What to do with Gronkowski and Hernandez
There is no reason both Patriots tight ends can’t be fantasy starters. They are different players. Hernandez is a better athlete with more ability in the open field, while “The Gronk” is a better blocker and plays a more traditional tight end role. So who should you draft first? It probably depends on your scoring system. They will be on the field together much of the year, with Hernandez lined up in the slot more on passing downs. He’s the better space player, so look for him to get more targets and therefore receptions and yards.
But look for Gronkowski to get the red zone and play-action targets, as the more physical player should be on the field more on running downs. Adjust your rankings to your scoring system accordingly.
• Inside the Locker Room
With Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union
How much of an issue is Maurice Jones-Drew’s knee?
His trainer, Pete Bommarito, says there’s no reason Jones-Drew won’t return to full strength after having arthroscopic knee surgery in January. Jones-Drew himself insists he’s training hard and working to bring his weight down, which in turn will reduce the wear and tear on his knee. The knee shouldn’t be a problem, but fantasy owners should note that the Jaguars might be a little more cautious with the number of carries they pile on him. He carried the ball 312 times in 2009, and last season, on a torn meniscus, he notched 299 carries in only 14 games.
With first-round pick Blaine Gabbert there, how long does David Garrard remain the starter?
If he’s as good as the Jaguars coaches think he is, Gabbert will be the starter eventually; it’s just a matter of how long Garrard continues to be the better option. Garrard has a distinct advantage in that he knows the system and the playbook better than Gabbert. Also, he’s more seasoned, and the shortened offseason won’t hurt him as much as it will hurt Gabbert. Garrard’s often unpredictable, but it’s unlikely he’ll lose his starting job in camp. If he struggles during the season, look for Gabbert to take over.
Can tight end Marcedes Lewis repeat his solid 2010 season?
The Jaguars placed the franchise tag on Lewis, but he is looking for a long-term deal. Being in the last season of his contract was part of Lewis’ motivation in having a career year last season. He’s not the type of player who will take the foot off the gas once he gets a big contract.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: TB, @ATL, @TEN
Just make it to the end, MJD. Waiting for you are two teams (Tampa Bay and Tennessee) that were in the bottom 12 in fantasy points allowed to RBs in 2010. MJD went for 186 yards on a bum knee in Week 13 vs. the Titans last year. Marcedes Lewis owners can rejoice if you make it to your title game as he gets a Tennessee team that ranked 26th against TEs the last two years.
• Athlon Best Bets Sleeper: Mike Thomas, WR Deep-Sleeper: Jason Hill, WR Overvalued: Marcedes Lewis, TE Top Rookie: Cecil Shorts, WR Bounce-Back: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Top IDP: Paul Posluszny, LB
• Try to Avoid
David Garrard, QB
His 53-to-38 TD-to-INT ratio over the last three years prompted the Jags to select Blaine Gabbert in the first round. Garrard averaged under 200 yards passing per game in 2010. WAIT UNTIL: 19th RD
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
Quarterback David Garrard’s performance has been inconsistent, but the veteran has managed to hold onto the starting job. With the Jaguars trading up to get Gabbert, though, it’s only a matter of time before Garrard will step aside as the starter. Gabbert’s ability to make an immediate impact was hurt by the lockout, but if the Jaguars are out of the playoff race, expect to see him on the field this year. Jacksonville has one of the weakest receiving corps in the NFL, and Shorts is a sleeper to remember for 2011.