Rob Gronkowski’s injuries this offseason have been well documented. From multiple forearm procedures to a back surgery, Gronk has only just recently started intensive rehab, which means that he is still 4-5 weeks away from being able to start for the Patriots. With the NFL season starting in just one week, if you took Gronk with a middle round pick (bravo), you’ll need a guy to plug in for the weeks that he’s missing. These next couple of tight ends are guys that are drafted rather late in most leagues, but are more than capable of filling in for the “Nutcracker.”
ADP numbers taken from ffcalculator.com based on a 12-team standard league
Greg Olsen (9.12): Only behind Steve Smith, Olsen is going to be heavily utilized in the Panthers offense in 2013. He finished as the 6th best TE last year, and with the absence of Jonathan Stewart for the first 6 weeks, the Panthers may need to rely on their passing game more often. An even more compelling point is that the Panthers play in the NFC South, where shootouts will be aplenty. With the Panthers bye week being Week 4, he’s a great candidate to replace Gronk until he returns.
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Kyle Rudolph (10.03): While this Rudolph doesn’t have a red nose, what he does have is a nose for the end-zone. In 2012 Rudolph had a team high 9 receiving touchdowns, and even with the addition of Greg Jennings, he should lead the Vikings in that category again. He may not have the receptions or yardage that other tight ends will produce, but if you’re looking for a fill-in for a few weeks, Rudolph will likely hit pay-dirt multiple times.
Zach Sudfeld (10.11): The Patriot UDFA not named Kenbrell Thompkins that is making noise this offseason has been Zach Sudfeld. Sudfeld has had his ups and downs (got benched last week for fumbling), but his upside while Gronk is out is undeniable. He beat out velocity challenged Jake Ballard for the backup TE spot behind Gronk this offseason, and has developed quite a rapport with Terrific Tom. The fact that Sufeld will be on the same field at the same time Tom Brady is reason enough to draft him. Add in the fact that you can probably drop him once Gronk comes back makes this pick even more enticing for those looking for a handcuff.
Fred Davis (12.08): Davis was on pace for a 61/832/0 line last season before tearing his Achilles. While he didn’t have any touchdowns, there was definite chemistry between the then rookie RG3 and Davis. With the lack of any pass catchers outside of Pierre Garcon in Washington, Davis looks to be the #2 receiving threat (like Olsen) in that offense. RG3 may be forced to throw more this year (by the coaching staff presumably), so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Davis start off the year with a bang. Draft him in the 12th and he’ll pay dividends for you until Gronkowski returns.