What Does Aaron Hernandez Injury Mean for Patriots, Fantasy Football Owners?

Nick KostoraContributor IIISeptember 16, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots celebrates a 12 yard touchdown in the third quarter against the New York Giants during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

A second quarter injury in Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals for New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez will have ricochet effects for fantasy owners of nearly every Patriot.

The severity of Hernandez's injury is not yet known, although ESPN's John Clayton is reporting that he is questionable to return to today's game.

Luckily, any prolonged absence may not have as big of an effect on the Patriots offense as expected.

Let's look at what the injury will mean to New England's other weapons:

Daniel Fells

The third guy in line, Daniel Fells, is actually a solid 6'4" 265 pound pass-catcher, and has averaged around 12 yards-per-reception over the course of his career.

Is he a legitimate fantasy option in place of Hernandez?

With Tom Brady at quarterback, almost anyone becomes a threat, and Fells cannot be written off simply because he is a No. 3 tight end.


Wes Welker

Will Hernandez's injury mean an uptick in Wes Welker's production?

Unfortunately not, as offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels does not seem to be working him into the game plan at the rate we are accustomed to seeing.

Welker was targeted a mere five times in Week 1 and had a reduced number of snaps. The theory that he is being squeezed out of the offense intentionally may not be true, but Welker is clearly a victim of an offensive game plan geared around tight ends and an improved rushing attack.


Rob Gronkowski

"Gronk" did not see any increased production when Hernandez missed Week 2 and 3 last season.

Don't expect his numbers to jump at all if a similar situation arises this year. Gronkowski is still going to get 6-8 catches a game and will be an integral part of the game plan, but the way that the Patriots offense is structured rarely allows for Brady to single out one target too often.


Overall Outlook:

In two games without Aaron Hernandez last season the Patriots scored a combined 67 points.

New England will be just fine if he misses some time, even though he is one of the most versatile weapons on their roster.