Fantasy football owners have waited more than a month to put New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in their starting lineups, and it appears that their frustration will soon subside.
According to his agent, Gronkowski has been medically cleared to play in Sunday’s Week 7 matchup against the New York Jets. He’s still listed as questionable on the team’s official injury report, but after receiving medical clearance and taking part in practice this past week, the chances of him being active seem to be higher than they have been at any point this season.
If Gronkowski plays, he’s your No. 1 tight end and must be started in all types of fantasy leagues. Even though he’s coming back from multiple surgeries and hasn’t faced real game contact and tackling since last year’s playoffs, Gronkowski should receive plenty of targets from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady when he returns to the field.
Even if the star tight end doesn’t rack up a ton of yards, he will be targeted often whenever New England is in the red zone. In his three-year NFL career, 29 of his 38 receiving touchdowns happened during red-zone plays, the most of any pass-catcher during that span. When you consider Gronkowski’s sure-handedness in the end zone and the amount of drops that the Patriots’ rookie receivers have made this season, expect Brady to look in his tight end’s direction a lot this week.
His matchup against the Jets is also a favorable one. In five career games against New York, Gronkowski has averaged four catches, 49.6 receiving yards and one touchdown on five targets. He caught six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown on nine targets in his most recent performance versus the Jets Oct. 21 of 2012.
Over the last two weeks, the Jets have not defended quality tight ends well. In Week 5, future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez tallied eight receptions for 99 yards, and in Week 6, Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller caught six passes for 84 yards. In Yahoo! Sports fantasy leagues, the Jets are giving up the 17th most points to tight ends through six weeks.
The bottom line with Gronkowski is that he’s a legitimate TE1 this week and a must-start. Brady has struggled in the passing game this season due to the new additions at wide receiver, and getting his most reliable target back will have a huge impact on the offense’s ability to score touchdowns more consistently.
Fantasy owners should expect at least 10 points from Gronkowski on Sunday based on the amount of targets he should receive and his ability to convert in the red zone.