What Happens, for Fantasy Football, if the Patriots DO NOT Select Noah Fant (or T.J. Hockenson)?
What happens if the New England Patriots do NOT take a tight end in the 1st-round…per everyone’s Noah Fant mock draft predictions?
Think about it – what in the past 2-3-4 years has shown us that the Patriots are even sweating not having Gronk?
Gronk has been injury prone and missing games for years, and the Pats keep winning, won a Super Bowl without him in 2016 (and with him in 2018)…and they keep NOT addressing (with any long-term mindset) the tight end position for the past few years. I mean…Dwayne Allen, seriously? Martellus Bennett?
The last time the Patriots drafted a tight end, with all the Gronk injuries and retirement rumors…2015, 6th-round A.J. Derby. Before that, it was Lee Smith in the 5th-round of 2011. Before that…Gronk/Hernandez in 2010.
When the Patriots got Allen and Bennett for instant-use…their individual fantasy values were instantly boosted, nearly to TE1 levels for stretches of time. And then what happened? Neither did much for fantasy, in reality. Allen was a ghost and Bennett had a good game or two, but mostly was a random TE1-2 guy when Gronk was hurt…but nothing close to Gronk-like output.
Rob Gronkowski was one of a kind, somewhat like Aaron Hernandez. This is not the running back position where the backup does whatever the starter does, coming in to snaps in an emergency. Tight ends are not easily interchangeable…but that won’t stop fantasy analysts and fantasy GMs from going bananas anytime a tight end is associated with New England. Remember the summer UDFA Zach Sudfeld became a TE1 preseason 2013-ish? Remember when A.J. Derby had a sweet preseason (he was later traded)?
All these drafted or signed or traded for on-Gronk tight ends got boosted in hype value by being the supposed ‘guy’ for the Pats. AND they all were never close to such in reality.
It’s going to happen again, the same pattern, in 2019. The question is – what tight end will it be that gets the boost? If it’s Noah Fant, then the answer is obvious -- but if they miss Fant or pass on him…then what?
1) They draft a mid-round value tight end like a Justin Moreau or Dawson Knox, etc.
2) They trade for a tight end.
3) They use discarded-by-others tight ends and cobble together a TE depth chart.
Let’s examine the ripple effects and likelihood of these three scenarios…
1) If the Patriots draft a day-two tight end prospect, the enthusiasm will be down compared to them nabbing Fant (or Hockenson), but it will still be a boost to that name…whomever it is.
But, seriously, are the Patriots really going to draft a 3rd-round tight end and jam them into the starting lineup in 2019 – this is not the Jets or Dolphins…this is the Patriots, a team about to go to the Super Bowl AGAIN. Highly unlikely a 3rd+ round rookie tight end walks in and starts…and becomes a fantasy star. Rookie TEs struggle enough in fantasy as it is…especially mediocre ones.
However, if/when they draft this day-two TE…he would be the guy. But not if…
2) The Patriots trade for a tight end.
But who will they trade for? Not a big-name guy, most likely, but a bargain. That being the case…what decent TE is just out there for the Patriots to nab? I’ve scoured the NFL rosters, I couldn’t find the obvious name.
The Pats made a run at signing Jared Cook…which is why I don’t think they’ll rely on the draft to fill this tight end need. They may draft one for the future/depth, but not taking one to be seen as a Week 1 starter…Fant likely wouldn’t start right away.
Delanie Walker via trade, maybe?
There’s not much out there at all to consider.
3) The most likely scenario…the Week 1 starter at tight end for the Pats this season is coming from the discard pile. Or, even more likely, the startERS (rotational) will come from the discard pile.
The clubhouse leader today…they already, quietly, grabbed Matt LaCosse from Denver – a guy who I thought ‘popped’ a little with Denver last year when the Broncos lost a ton of TEs to injury, and were forced to roll with LaCosse…and he looked good/promising for 2-3 games and then he got hurt himself and missed the last few games.
LaCosse is 6’5”+. He was 257 pounds entering the league but it looks like he’s cut weight and thus/maybe gotten faster than his 4.71 40-time at his Pro Day in 2015 (and 1.60 10-yard). LaCosse might be 6’5”+ and running in the 4.6s now with a nice burst in a slightly slimmed body. Not a bad profile.
LaCosse has experience (4+ years in the league)…and he’s, currently, the team’s #1 tight end by default.
I doubt it will be LaCosse alone Week 1. Could be a 3rd-round TE grabbed working with him, but I could see another TE coming off the discard pile. I’m watching two names to fit the bill here…
1 = Cameron Brate, when he gets cut by Tampa Bay (and he will because of salary…unless they re-negotiate, but that’s doubtful with the new regime)
2 = Seth DeValve, if he gets cut in the on-going Moneyball draft purge in Cleveland. The Browns have Njoku and keep adding veteran TEs via free agency. It’s only a matter of time before DeValve is cut loose.
If it’s LaCosse as the seeming leader after the draft…imagine how his FF-value will shoot? All it will take is one Rotoworld headline/silly blurb about how the Pats see LaCosse as Gronk-like, and BOOM he’s a fringe TE1 overnight.
Why am I telling you all this?
Depending on how deep your Dynasty rosters go…you might want to take a position in LaCosse, and/or Brate (DeValve only if the Pats get him) and wait for the inevitable Roto-headline that pushes them (assuming no Fant). THEN…you flip them in a deal that moment/week. A non-Gronk Patriots’ tight end is never more valuable than his preseason hype peak.
For the investment of a last roster spot on 1-2 of these guys, you could strike gold…a trade-able asset, getting the Pats’ hype tight end for Week 1 in 2019. If you’re wrong (however it plays out that it’s not LaCosse or Brate, etc.)…you cut the fool. Low cost gamble…possible sweet ROI if you’re right.
How many existing NFL tight ends are a Roto story away from going from TE18 to fringe TE1 in 24 hours?
Note – I am not convinced the Pats will draft a tight end 1st-round. Depends upon what fell to them or they just trade out of the first. ‘Fans’/analysts are thinking it’s a given, but the Patriots never operate like the fans/analysts think. Nothing the Patriots have done for the past five years has indicated they’re super worried about how to back-fill Gronk…and when they have planned around it, it’s been with cheap veteran-ish players not rookies.