The San Francisco receiver is out for three weeks following knee surgery
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Candlestick Park, the San Francisco 49ers offense actually found a way to get worse.
Rivaling only the Chiefs as one of the most lackluster offenses this year (OK, and maybe the Colts), their newly-acquired wide receiver, Braylon Edwards will be out for three weeks following knee surgery. Which is the last thing San Fran fans wanted to hear. Not to say, he's Braylon has been lighting it up so far this year, but they need all the help they can get.
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 Bay Area NFL Correspondent Eric Gilmore
We all know Frank Gore’s injury history. So is it Anthony Dixon or Kendall Hunter to take as the handcuff?
At this point, Dixon would likely have the slight edge in what could turn into a training camp battle for the No. 2 job. At 6'1" and 233 pounds, he’s built for new coach Jim Harbaugh’s power running scheme. Hunter stands 5'7" and weighs just 200 pounds. He’s not built to take consistent pounding in the NFL. Dixon has a year of NFL experience, too, carrying 70 times for 237 yards and two touchdowns last year. Hunter has yet to go through a single NFL practice. He’ll likely have a role as a third down back or a change-of-pace runner.
Is it even worth looking at the No. 2 receiver for the 49ers or is it just going to be Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis getting the targets?
No. 2 wideout Josh Morgan has done little to get fantasy team owners excited, but he has a combined 96 catches over the past two seasons, and the question now is whether he can take his game to a higher level playing in a West Coast offense. He averaged 15.9 yards per catch last year, while Crabtree averaged just 13.5.
Should Patrick Willis be the No. 1 overall IDP taken?
Willis has racked up 595 tackles in four NFL seasons, and it’s a good bet that this textbook tackler will put up more big numbers this season. The fact that he had a career-low 128 tackles last year could be seen as a red flag, but he played two games with a broken hand and missed the season finale. If not for that injury, his tackle total would have been much higher.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: @ARI, PIT, @SEA
Seeing Pittsburgh on the schedule in the fantasy postseason is always scary, and even scarier when the key guy from this team is RB Frank Gore and the Steelers consistently shut down the run. Arizona (26.5 ppg) and Seattle (24.0 ppg) gave up the second- and sixth-most points per games to RBs, however, and at least 9.0 points per game to TEs.
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Kendall Hunter, RB Deep-Sleeper: NaVorro Bowman, LB Overvalued: Michael Crabtree, WR Top Rookie: Kendall Hunter, RB Bounce-Back: Frank Gore, RB Top IDP: Patrick Willis, LB
• Try to Avoid
Alex Smith, QB
Not even Jim Harbaugh’s Midas touch will be good enough to land Smith on any fantasy roster. He has never topped 3,000 yards or 20 TDs in a season, and he has more career INTs (53) than TDs (51). WAIT UNTIL: 18th RD
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
Colin Kaepernick is expected to be the quarterback of the future but needs a year or two to develop. He should be on the radar in keeper drafts this fall. With Frank Gore coming off a hip injury, Hunter should be good insurance and will push Anthony Dixon for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.