Aaron Hernandez

The Case for Aaron Hernandez as a Sleeper Tight End

Aaron HernandezIf I’m going to say Rob Gronkowski might not be all Yo Soy Fiesta in New England, I should probably explain where I expect those points to go. And besides the obvious choice in Brandon Lloyd, there’s another tight end in New England who had a not-too-shabby year in 2011.

For some reason, ESPN has disabled video embeds for the roundtable discussion they had on Aaron Hernandez, but you can watch it here on ESPN.

KC Joyner makes a compelling argument.

The targets were there last year. As you hear in the ESPN video, Hernandez ranked highly when it came to targets and, unlike Gronkowski, not the vertical balls that Brandon Lloyd should cut into this year as a Patriot.

He did run the ball, but I doubt that adds much to his value for fantasy. New England has two young running backs, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, who should step it up this year now that Law Firm isn’t there to hog carries.

For Hernandez to meet and exceed his draft position this year, he only needs to be more effective with his targets this season versus last.

Hernandez looked like THE tight end to own in fantasy for several weeks early in 2011, but after Hernandez’s injury, Gronkowski seemed to take over and never let up for the Pats.

So while you might not be looking for a “sleeper” tight end in the middle of your draft as the No. 6 or No. 7 tight end on the board (and yes, I realize this isn’t truly a sleeper draft position), Hernandez could surprise you with what he gives you this year and could jump into the top 3 tight ends if given the opportunity.

I’ll certainly look to target him if I miss out on the best of the best, Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.

Why I Would Draft Jimmy Graham Over Rob Gronkowski

Those of you who follow me on Twitter have probably seen my running commentary on all of the ESPN Fantasy Football Roundtable discussions.

Many of ESPN’s Roundtables are pretty straightforward and were easy to discuss in just the 140 characters that Twitter allows, but a few are worthy of meatier discussion. That’s what I’d like to start today with this latest roundtable on tight end values at the top of the draft.


If you can’t see the embedded video, watch it here on ESPN.

Last season proved it was advantageous to own one of the truly elite tight ends, and Rob Gronkowski (1327 yds, 17 TDs + 1 rushing TD) and Jimmy Graham (1310 yds, 11 TDs) were SIGNIFICANTLY better than the rest of their counterparts at the tight end position. Gronkowski alone probably won many fantasy football championships last year.

These two provided such a nice edge last season and were so dominant that the fantasy football community was talking (and still is) about drafting Gronkowski and/or Graham in the first round this year.

There’s an argument to be made that their value justifies taking them that high, but there’s also plenty of depth at tight end for those who don’t feel comfortable with it.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s just assume you’re all in on these tight ends and don’t want to be left without a stud.

So if you want to go tight end early, many folks might be thinking Gronk is the unquestioned first choice. I disagree. Gronkowski was unstoppable last season, but if you want to spend a high pick on a tight end, I’d rather take Jimmy Graham. Why?

  1. The Patriots spent the offseason signing receivers and landed Brandon Lloyd as a new vertical threat in their offense. His presence should take away some of those vertical passes that made Gronkowski so great last year.
  2. New Orleans watched a target walk. Robert Meachem was no Jimmy Graham, and his loss could easily have no effect on Graham’s value. But having fewer targets to spread the ball around to can’t hurt Graham. That’s for sure.
  3. Rob Gronkowski’s points came largely from touchdowns, which are unreliable season to season. As defenses cover Gronk more closely or choose to take him out of a game, it’s less and less likely he’ll be able to reproduce those numbers, which would bring him a little closer to Graham statistically.
  4. The Saints offseason bounty scandal drama and suspension-fest should prevent them from making massive changes to the offensive game plans this year. Brees put up a fair amount of yards last year, so why change things?
  5. Meanwhile, the Patriots brought in a new offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels. While I’m sure he won’t do anything too drastic, he could easily make some changes in New England. And the Patriots have changed their system up in just one offseason in the past. There’s no guarantee they continue to make Gronk the most critical cog in the machine for 2012.

Maybe I’m just not as “Yo Soy Fiesta” as the next guy, but that’s why I’d shy away from taking Gronk as a high pick in my draft. I’d rather place my bet on Jimmy Graham. And honestly, I’d feel best if I could get one of them in the late second or third round rather than considering them in the first.

I wouldn’t be terribly upset if I ended up with Gronkowski on any of my fantasy teams this year, but I’d think long and hard before I took him as the first tight end off the board.