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NFL Barometer: Gronkowski Good To Go

Mario Puig

Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.


Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE

Head coach Bill Belichick was typically noncommittal when asked about Gronkowski's status Tuesday, but Gronkowski said the day before that he will play Week 1 for the Patriots. There's always some reason for concern when a player is returning from a torn ACL, not to mention a torn ACL/MCL combo, but Gronkowski reportedly moved well throughout New England's training camp, and with his availability confirmed it's easy to see him providing an outstanding value to those who selected him earlier in the preseason. Gronkowski can match Jimmy Graham on a per-game basis, not to mention Julius Thomas, so in hindsight it's hard to see why Gronkowski shouldn't have been the second tight end off the board all along. Although his snap count will be limited somewhat in Week 1, Gronkowski doesn't need many snaps to do his damage. He has averaged well over 9.0 yards per target for his career, and he scores a touchdown roughly once per 7.75 targets. Considering he has averaged 7.94 targets per game going back to 2011, even a part-time Gronk is a strong bet to score every week.

Ben Tate, RB, CLE

It's clear at this point that Tate will serve as a workhorse runner for the Browns, as coach Mike Pettine endorsed Tate as the team's three-down lead back, referring to the former Texan as the running back he “can trust the most right now.” The phrasing leaves open the possibility of change beyond 'now,' but durability concerns aside, there's little reason to think Tate can't handle the task ahead of him. With low 4.4 speed at around 5-foot-10, 220 pounds and a history of producing in zone-blocking schemes, Tate looks like a plug-and-play fit for what should be a run-heavy Cleveland offense. Terrance West will do no more than pick up Tate's scraps for the foreseeable future.

Derek Carr, QB, OAK

It's hard to tell whether much fantasy utility will come out of it, but Carr has been named Oakland's starting quarterback for Week 1 after thoroughly outplaying Matt Schaub throughout the preseason. The second-round pick out of Fresno State was downright impressive against the Seahawks in Oakland's final preseason game, completing 11-of-13 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Rookie quarterbacks don’t historically produce at high levels, and the Raiders’ receiving corps has question marks, but Carr is probably a must-own in 2QB leagues at the very least.


Terrance West, RB, CLE

With Ben Tate's ascent in Cleveland, West's fantasy value has taken a turn the opposite direction. West's preseason was clearly discouraging, as he plodded his way to just 83 yards on 31 carries (2.7 YPC) while losing a fumble, making it fair to wonder if he can even hold off fellow rookie Isaiah Crowell in the Cleveland running back rotation. In addition to Tate's recent endorsement as a three-down runner for Cleveland, West's fantasy value was further harmed by Crowell's strong showing in the Browns' fourth preseason game, as Crowell ran for 102 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries (7.8 YPC) in a game where West finished with just 13 yards on six carries. Although Crowell wasn't picked in the most recent draft, he's a former five-star recruit with obvious athletic gifts – he could have been picked ahead of West if not for character issues.

Bishop Sankey, RB, TEN

It's not all bad news with Sankey – he was elevated above Dexter McCluster on the most recent Tennessee depth chart and now ranks as the top backup to starter Shonn Greene. However, the fact that he's still behind Greene is a concern. Greene was a prime threat to steal red-zone touches even if it were Sankey atop the depth chart, so it might be hard for Sankey to produce if Greene is getting the first- and second-down touches in addition to the goal-line ones. Greene's days as a starter are likely numbered, but it might take about two months before Sankey starts producing like the RB3 investment it generally took to acquire him in fantasy drafts.

Odell Beckham, WR, NYG

Beckham has been a regular on the 'faller' lists all offseason, as a hamstring injury he suffered back in the spring has seemingly kept him on the shelf all the while. The latest update is that coach Tom Coughlin said the rookie 12th overall pick might still be two or three weeks away from playing. With very few practice reps in what looks like a poor passing offense, it's difficult to see Beckham making much of a fantasy impact in his rookie season.

Ka'Deem Carey, RB, CHI

Carey was widely expected to serve as the top backup and fantasy handcuff to Matt Forte this year – the Bears probably expected the same when they picked him in the fourth round of the most recent draft – but Carey gave little reason for optimism during his preseason showings and will head into Week 1 no higher than third on the Chicago depth chart behind Forte and Shaun Draughn. Carey had downright bad workouts leading up to the draft, and probably would have gone undrafted if not for his high-level production at a visible Arizona program. Obviously, landing behind an unimpressive player like Draughn doesn't bode well for Carey's dynasty prospects either.