For fantasy owners of New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, the past few weeks have been nothing but a holding pattern.
Hernandez, a young star on the rise in the vaunted New England attack, had been on the verge of a breakout season. Supposedly an even bigger part of the 2012 offense, the 22-year-old came out and had a marvelous Week 1, catching six passes for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Nonetheless, an ankle injury in the Patriots' Week 2 contest against the Arizona Cardinals robbed Hernandez of another nice performance and left New England scrambling.
For the Patriots, Hernandez's injury meant attempting to revert to older offensive philosophies and substituting less-talented players into two tight end sets. The team has already signed and released Kellen Winslow and reportedly worked out Jake Byrne on Monday (via ESPN Boston's Field Yates).
Though Hernandez's prognosis was far better than expected, working out Byrne likely means the team will be without the 22-year-old tight end again on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
While that will undoubtedly hinder the Patriots' chances of beating Peyton Manning and Co., Hernandez's continued absence could present fantasy owners a chance at nabbing Hernandez as a buy-low trade candidate.
It's obviously not going to be easy to nab someone with Hernandez's potential. In ESPN standard leagues, he was taken as the sixth tight end and had an average draft position of 65.6.
That means whoever owns Hernandez was relying on him to be an every-week starter and a consistent fixture in the lineup.
Considering the third-year star put up 79 receptions for 910 yards and seven touchdowns in 14 games, there is little wonderment left as to why. He's a player, who if healthy, could be the best tight end in fantasy football.
Consequently, approaching a trade for the Patriots tight end is all about finding the proper situation.
If the Hernandez owner in your league has been using a Dallas Clark-like replacement and you can only offer Coby Fleener (with another player) in a potential trade, there is no sense in even making an offer. The owner will simply take a look at your offered trade, mutter something obscene under his/her breath and send you directly to the spam folder.
On the other hand, if the Hernandez owner is riding Greg Olsen's hot hand and has a glaring deficiency at another position, you could be in the perfect position.
Hernandez's value is just low enough at this point that it would likely only take a low-end No. 2 running back or a high-end flex player for an owner that has a suitable replacement.
And if the Patriots use their "other" star tight end the way most expected in the preseason, those owners who make a deal for Hernandez could be in store for a huge payoff.
Like quarterback, tight end has become a position where there are a select few top-tier players and a cavalcade of indistinguishable replacements. For every Hernandez, there are 10 Kyle Rudolphs of the world. This phenomenon is a lot of prognosticators harp on value-based drafting in the preseason.
A quarter of the way through the 2012 NFL season, we have a baseline for production, which Hernandez will easily leap over once he returns.
If you can find an owner willing to deal and your tight end situation is bleak, jump on grabbing Hernandez and reap the rewards come playoff time.