Gronking for Rob Gronkowski Stand-ins: Replacing Gronk for the Playoffs

Let’s get this straight — there is no replacing Rob Gronkowski. Contrary to popular offseason belief, he has been on pace to reproduce his miraculous 2011 season, if not exceed it. He’s the head of the pack when it comes to tight ends, and you’re not going to find those kinds of points on the waiver wire floor.

But alas, you must because not even Gronkowski can “Gronk” his broken forearm back into game shape. So brace yourself. This isn’t going to be pretty.

Rather than guess who’s available in your league, I thought I’d take a look at who is available in several of mine. In one league, I see Joel Dreessen, Dwayne Allen, Marcedes Lewis, and  Anthony Fasano at the bottom of the pile. In a 10-man PPR league, the pickings are a little better: Kyle Rudolph, Dennis Pitta, Scott Chandler, Brent Celek, and Jared Cook.

Before we begin, obviously, the best of the bunch is Brandon Myers is you’re in one of those leagues that is sleeping on him, but everyone in my leagues has gotten smart to him by now. Greg Olsen is another name that gets tossed to the wire  occasionally  throughout the season, but he’s broken out as of late and probably got picked up. Martellus Bennett might have been dropped during Eli Manning‘s slump, and I’d be willing to take a shot with him coming out the Giants’ bye if you can get him.

Also not available in my league but worth consideration are Dustin Keller and Jermichael Finley. They would be just below Kyle Rudolph on my list if they were on the wire.

Barring a chance at any of those guys, you’re stuck with what I listed above. So let’s break them down.

Kyle Rudolph stands out as the biggest name of the bunch. He was a touchdown maker earlier in the season who went through a little bit of a slump before putting up points again just before his bye. I like him as a decent Gronk replacement, and perhaps the Vikings can fix their offensive troubles coming out of the bye. Unfortunately, he has game remaining against Chicago (twice) and the Texans in Week 16, which makes him a less promising option than he really should be.

Logan Paulsen‘s been a decent piece of the Redskins’ offense these last few weeks, and he scored his first touchdown last week coming out of Washington’s bye. He makes a decent play down the stretch in an offense that should continue to hum with Robert Griffin III under center and one that is playing for the future. The schedule doesn’t jump out at you, but playing the Eagles in Week 16 could be a fantasy points bonanza, assuming the Eagles pack it in for the year.

Jared Cook  was a sleeper to start the year. Many expected a breakout with Jake Locker under center, but the Titans just can be trusted to use Cook’s skills as a receiver. But I have to take the bait with him. Locker looked great in his return and hit Cook for a score. There’s promise here. And Cook faces the Colts and Jets in the fantasy playoff weeks.

Brent Celek doesn’t excite me, but the Eagles have a solid passing schedule with the Panthers, Bucs, Bengals, and Redskins on their slate. Unfortunately, I’d avoid Celek unless you can afford to stash him until we see one of the Eagles’ passers come to life. Nick Foles hasn’t been a spark for the Eagles offense, and Micheal Vick just hasn’t provided many  opportunities  for his playmakers to make plays. Go with Celek only if you can’t get any of the previous guys off the wire.

Dwayne Allen is a starting option only as long as Coby Fleener is out. When Fleener returns, the two will be frustrating owners as they  dilute  the tight end points you’ll get out of Andrew Luck throwing the ball. Allen gets to play the Bills this week without him, but Fleener will probably return before Week 16. If not, Allen will have the Chiefs all to himself.

Allen’s on my list because he’s a good starter for the next few games, but know that you’ll probably need someone else to support him in the playoffs.

While the above tight ends could be good weekly options, the remaining tight ends on this list are mostly spot starts. Dennis Pitta is currently concussed and hasn’t been very reliable since Week 3. He scored in Week 10 against the Raiders…but it was the Raiders. Joel Dreessen has way too many e’s in his name, and he splits his points with Jacob Tamme. While there was a three-game stretch earlier this season where you could count on Dreessen to find the  end zone   it seems that time has passed.

Dallas Clark hasn’t been as hot as the rest of the Bucs’ offense, but he’s benefited from their production. Still, it’s hard to trust him as a starting option in the fantasy playoffs, even if he faces the Saints in Week 15. Scott Chandler‘s schedule isn’t as scary as some, but he could get you 2 as easily as he could get you 9+ points. And Anthony Fasano has been a non-participant in the Dolphins’ offense lately.

That leaves us with Marcedes Lewis, who should be in this group as a matchups play if you look past his Week 11 performance with Chad Henne taking over at quarterback for the Jags. The schedule isn’t intimidating, which makes Lewis a promising option if you get this far down the list. Of all the guys after Allen, I’d probably consider Lewis the top of the group. I might even consider grabbing him over Celek if given the choice.

You’ll know after a few weeks whether Lewis can be counted on to produce. Just make sure you shore up your tight end position with another option in case Lewis returns to fantasy purgatory.

See, I told you it wouldn’t be pretty.

Moore to live for in Week 11 Pickups

It’s getting to be that time. The fantasy playoffs are near. Records are shaking out. If you’re set to make a deep playoff run, you should be reshaping your team to play it’s best fantasy football in Weeks 14-16.

Of course, that’s assuming you’re all playing championship games in Week 16, which is the only week you should be, but if that’s not the way your league commish scheduled playoffs, it’s too late to change that until next season.

If you’re using a FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) system for the waiver wire (bidding on players every week to see who gets to acquire them), now’s the time to bid the most money for the players who could really help you down the stretch. Trim the fat and drop any players who haven’t earned their spot on your roster. Go big or go home with the players who should help you the most if they pan out.

As we continue with a little late season advice, make sure you don’t make any of the common mistakes. Scott Pianowski wrote up a great piece earlier this week that touches on most of them, but it boils down to this: Play smart and loose. You’ll make a bad trade or two before you’re done playing fantasy football. But no one remembers the bad trade when you hold up the trophy.

Also consider these matchup notes for Weeks 15 and 16 highlighted by Adam Levitan as you go about your roster moves this week.

MARSHAWN LYNCH (Seahawks)

It’s highly unlikely that Lynch is sitting out on a waiver wire somewhere at this point in the season. But then again, there’s always a chance. We haven’t seen a lot of BEAST MODE this season, but Lynch’s usage makes him a valuable RB2 prospect to end the season. In the next four weeks, he gets to face the Rams twice and the Redskins, which should provide some nice fantasy points before he finishes the fantasy playoffs by getting stonewalled by the Bears and 49ers.

BEN TATE (Texans)

Another just in case, Tate has been as productive as most of the starting backs in the league while serving as Arian Foster’s No. 2. Now that Matt Leinart is taking the reigns in Houston, the Texans might rely on the run even more, which would provide Tate with more opportunities to shine. If someone threw Tate back after Foster got healthy, it’s time someone snatched him back up.

DENARIUS MOORE (Raiders)

The Raiders passing game is flourishing once again under Carson Palmer, and their remaining games gives them one of the best schedules to throw on. Jacoby Ford left the Week 10 contest against the Chargers with an injury, and Moore reaped the benefits. He should continue to see a healthy dose of targets from Palmer, and I consider him the No. 1 priority on the waiver wire for anyone in need of help at wide receiver. He could be a solid WR2, the type of find that could carry you through to a fantasy championship with several big weeks.

KENDALL HUNTER (49ers)

Frank Gore sat out in Week 10 with multiple injuries while Hunter carried the load and sealed the game for the 49ers. Gore and his coaches are saying that he should be fine to play in Week 11, but they’re also saying they intend to lighten his load moving forward to keep him fresh for the playoffs. And once the playoffs are a lock, the 49ers may even rest their workhorse back. The end result of all this: Hunter has value the rest of the way.

ED DICKSON (Ravens)

While he’s been getting plenty of targets all year, Dickson finally did something significant with them in Week 10, scoring twice. That was probably Dickson’s best game of the season, but if you’re still searching for a tight end with a pulse, Dickson could be your guy.

VINCE YOUNG (Eagles)

Michael Vick has two broken ribs. If he can’t go, Vince Young would get the start against the G-men this week. It’s not an ideal matchup, but Young’s had fantasy value in the past since he can score fantasy points with both his arm and his leg. Plus, he’s never benefited from the type of quarterback-friendly offense Andy Reid has constructed in Philly. Whether you own Vick or not, Young’s a worthy gamble going into Week 11 until we know whether Vick will play or not.

LANCE BALL (Broncos)

Willis McGahee is banged up, and Knowshon Moreno is on IR. Ball could get the start if McGahee can’t go on Thursday, and McGahee hasn’t yet gotten on the practice field. Ball should have value either way since the Broncos rely so heavily on the running game, but don’t expect the yards to come easy against the Jets.

CHRIS OGBONNAYA (Browns)

Peyton Hillis has already been ruled out for Week 11, which leaves Ogbonnaya in position to start again for the Browns. Ogbonnaya gets very little love from fantasy circles because he lacks talent, even though he was productive as a running back for the Texas Longhorns in college. He racked up the yards in Week 10 against the Rams, but the Jags present more of a challenge. Still, he’s worth adding since he might be the running back to own in Cleveland for the rest of the year.

DAMIAN WILLIAMS (Titans)

Since Damian Williams entered the starting lineup, Matt Hasselbeck has looked his way. While Williams is no Kenny Britt, he’s scored in his last two games and might be emerging for the stretch run. He’s definitely worth a stash if you’re hunting for a late season gem to help you in the playoffs.

HARRY DOUGLAS (Falcons)

Julio Jones left with an injury in Week 10 and seemed ready to return if the trainers had let him. In his place, Douglas received a showering of targets from Matt Ryan. Don’t expect the targets to continue unless Jones is sidelined again in Week 11. But if he is, Douglas is your guy.

VINCENT BROWN (Chargers)

Much like Torrey Smith of the Ravens, it’s hard to rely on these young wide receivers that splash onto the scene with big plays. Brown could just as easily disappear in Week 11, especially with the season Philip Rivers has had. But until Malcom Floyd is healthy, Brown should continue to fill in opposite Vincent Jackson (should we call him “The Other Vincent” yet?). The Chargers usually right the ship for a playoff run every year. Assuming that happens, Brown has the potential to produce just like Jackson and the rest of this Charger offense.

JACOB TAMME (Colts)

You should know what you’re getting with the Colts this season — yards but no scoring. Tamme will take Dallas Clark’s place in this offense until he’s well enough to return, but the tight end pool is deep enough that you shouldn’t have to reach for him at this point in the season. Besides, many of his targets came when Dan Orlovsky entered the game when it was already out of hand for Curtis Painter.

TASHARD CHOICE (Redskins)

I don’t like recommending any Redskins player with Shanahan in full tinker mode, but the former Cowboys running back claims to be healthy and able to contribute in Week 11. That means he has the potential to start and ruin your fantasy week if you were counting on Roy Helu or, even worse, Ryan Torain. Consider this more of a warning that Choice could be in play than a recommendation to go add him to your roster.

Fill in D/STs: I like both the Jaguars (vs. Browns) and Patriots (vs. Cassel-less Chiefs) this week to have a solid outing as D/STs.

On the Waiver Wire: Week 10 Pickups and Shots in the Dark

I gave away a victory this weekend, and I blame Antonio Gates.

With my tight end, Marcedes Lewis on a bye, I was forced to go to the waiver wire. At first, I tried to grab hot free agent Jacob Tamme, but I was outbid (FAAB league). Next, I tried for Visanthe Shiancoe but missed out again because of my priority. So I settled on Randy McMichael with most expecting Antonio Gates to sit this week out.

Jump to Saturday night, as I’m going over last minute news, I start to see reports of Antonio Gates as a “safe bet” to start in Week 9. Everyone who watched him is saying that he looked good. Since my league doesn’t allow for any roster moves after the final FAAB period on Saturday night, I had to decide right then and there whether I would take a chance on Gates starting and roll with Randy McMichael or whether I would grab another free agent.

Seeing Owen Daniels was available (but also questionable), I decided, for some reason that escapes my logical thinking in hindsight, that taking a chance on Daniels, a starter, taking the field would be a better bet than banking on McMichael to do anything for me.

So I started Daniels and, since I’ve been moving for the past week into a new apartment, I slept in a bit on Sunday until the first set of games had begun. What do I wake up to on Sunday morning? “RANDY MCMICHAEL…TOUCHDOWN!” And the nightmare began…or did the dream become a nightmare since I have just woken up?

Wait…was Randy McMichael “incepted” off my roster? This just raises more questions.

Even with botching my tight end, I had a 31-point lead going into Monday Night Football. My opponent had Big Ben, Mendenhall, and the Steelers D/ST, but I still had a very good chance. Unfortunately, that chance was dashed as soon as Mendenhall went to work. I lost by 7.7 points. Owen Daniels’ point total? 0 points. (He didn’t play.) Randy McMichael’s points for Week 9? 14.3 points.

The lesson? I broke a basic rule of fantasy football: Don’t second-guess yourself. You can drive yourself insane by treating your lineup decisions like a hostage situation, but second-guessing yourself based on limited information and rumors after you’ve already made one educated guess? Terrible. I should have never backed off of Randy McMichael, and you shouldn’t make the same mistakes either.

When it comes to your roster, it’s time to make the tough calls and stick with them. Leave the players you don’t want in the free agent pool. At this point in the season, if you don’t feel like Cadillac Williams or Ryan Mathews is going to help you win a championship, ditch them and invest in someone more promising. Hesitating will only cost you a chance to patch up your team’s weaknesses with some of the best free agents out there — and the fantasy playoffs are just a few weeks away.

So knowing that. Let’s get to some free agents that you may be able to take a chance on and ride into the playoffs. Not all of these guys are worth picking up outside of deep or highly competitive leagues, but if you’re searching for a filler or a desperation play at WR3, some of these might catch your eye.

If you need a quarterback, consider Shaun Hill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Troy Smith. I’d lean toward Fitzpatrick if you need a starter this week, but for the long-term, go with Hill. The Detroit quarterbacks have been putting up great numbers all season long, and now that Stafford’s out again — and probably for the rest of the season — Hill could be back in the driver’s seat.

Fitzpatrick continues to put up respectable points for a Buffalo quarterback even though his good days are likely behind him. Buffalo will only get colder and less friendly to the passing game.

But he’s done so much this year, and he’s made Steve Johnson look so good, you just have to give him the nod this week to see what he can do against the Lions.

Keep in mind that Troy Smith just joined the 49ers at the beginning of this season after the Ravens cut him loose. He’s had no offseason to prep for this offense, and he’s had to learn the playbook between snaps with the scout team.

Now that’s he’s gotten one official start under his belt and had a full bye week to prepare with the first team, Smith should truly be tested this week against the Rams. With his mobility and Frank Gore, he should be able to produce some fantasy points. He almost cracked 20 fantasy points in his first start for the 49ers, but I view him more as a prospect for the stretch rather than a fantasy starter in Week 10.

If you need a wide receiver, I recommend going after Jacoby Ford. He’s on a bye, but he holds the most value out of any of the recommended free agents this week. Ford showed his speed and gamesmanship on Sunday in fighting for the ball, something Darrius Heyward-Bey has never been caught doing.

Don’t spend any money on Ford if you have a FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) system, but he’s worth the speculative grab after the oodles of targets he received in Week 9. The Raiders return from their bye to play the Steelers in Week 11. Ford’s value should be reassessed after that game.

And don’t forget the injured and left for dead. Search your free agent pools for Louis Murphy, Sidney Rice, and Vincent Jackson. Jackson would be my first choice to acquire, but he won’t do anything until at least Week 12. Rice is a close second, but Favre is hardly the quarterback he was last season. He may not be able to get it done even if Rice can hit the field anywhere close to 100 percent.

Murphy, injured for several weeks, may have been dropped by one of your competitors, but he was Oakland’s one consistent weapon in the passing game besides Zach Miller until Murphy’s bruised lung forced him to sit a few out. While Ford has big-play potential and the trust of Jason Campbell, Murphy could do just as much damage when he gets back on the field.

If you need a running back, you’re probably going to have a hard time fishing for one of the waiver wire, but do make sure Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis are snatched up. BJGE, or “Law Firm,” disappointed in Week 9, but he should get back in the mix. Woodhead’s the most consistent of all the Patriots’ running backs right now, but he’s limited by the Patriots’ offense as a whole. Neither back is worth starting as anything more than a third running back or flex option.

There also may be some free agent blood on the Redskins’ running back depth chart. Ryan Torain should get the start this week, but Keiland Williams and James Davis should both be watched in case Torain is hurt again or falls out of favor. Maybe someone gave up on Clinton Portis? If so, grab him. Washington might not give him his job back, but he’s sure to have some part of the pie by the time Shanahan is done.

At tight end, if Jacob Tamme is available in your league, GET HIM. That guy is going to be Dallas Clark, Jr. for the rest of the season, and you can buy him on the cheap off the waiver wire. He’s probably more productive and value than the tight end you’re currently starting. Christmas come early!

Need more? Here are a few of my favorite waiver wire folks from around the Web: