The New England Patriots lost tight end Aaron Hernandez to a high ankle sprain in Week 2, but the latest reports indicate he's making a swift recovery—news that will impact fantasy value for other Pats receivers going forward.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports:
TE Kellen Winslow asked for and received release from Patriots, per source. Also sounds like Aaron Hernandez healing quicker than expected.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 27, 2012
Heading into the season, Hernandez got talked up by fantasy experts. Many wondered if he might actually be a better fantasy option than Rob Gronkowski, given the fact that he is more versatile than Gronk.
Through one game, the two had both caught six passes and one touchdown, and the Patriots looked to be rolling on offense. Then, Hernandez was injured, and the Pats have struggled ever since.
Let's take a look at how Hernandez's reintroduction into the Patriots lineup will affect the rest of the receivers from a fantasy perspective.
Brady's fantasy value will skyrocket once he has both of his dynamic tight ends back in the lineup.
Hernandez is such a valuable player for this offense, due to his ability to line up anywhere on the field and produce.
Hernandez's size, speed and hands make him a threat to make big plays on any given snap, and having him back will improve the team's chances to score touchdowns—especially in the red zone.
As crazy as it sounds, having Hernandez back in the lineup will help Gronk, rather than hurt him.
The two tight ends force teams to pick and choose which player to double, and it opens up the entire offense.
Gronk struggled in Week 3 against a tough Baltimore Ravens defense, catching only two passes for 21 yards, and it was obvious he couldn't get open often against the bracketed coverage the Ravens used against him.
Hernandez will open things up for Gronkowski, helping him become a more dangerous threat.
Lloyd's fantasy value will drop a bit when Hernandez is back.
Brady's favorite targets are his tight ends and slot receivers, and Lloyd benefited from Hernandez's absence, catching 17 balls in the past two games for 168 yards.
Lloyd has yet to catch a single touchdown this season, though, and he hasn't been a fantasy stud this year. When Hernandez comes back, he'll be even less attractive.
Welker is trending up right now, regardless of whether or not Hernandez plays. Julian Edelman is fighting through an injured left hand, and in his stead, Welker had a monster game in Baltimore in Week 3.
In the past two games, Welker has caught 13 passes for 237 yards.
I expect to see Welker continue to play a big role for the Pats going forward the rest of the yea, and Hernandez's insertion into the lineup will only make him more dangerous.
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