Aaron Hernandez: Updated Fantasy Outlook & Analysis for Patriots TE

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystNovember 12, 2012

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 24:  Defensive back Ronde Barber #20 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers #20 tackles tight end Aaron Hernendez #81 of the New England Patriots at Raymond James Stadium in a pre-season game August 24, 2012  in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The CIA was recently rocked by a scandal that has led to the resignation of its director, but an even more secretive organization had a curveball of its own in store for fantasy football owners in Week 10.

After practicing in a limited fashion all week and appearing to be on track to make his return against the Buffalo Bills, tight end Aaron Hernandez, who has missed five of the past seven games with an ankle injury, was scratched from the lineup Sunday, leaving many fantasy owners scrambling to find a last-minute replacement at the position.

Granted, nothing should ever really surprise us where the perpetually vague Patriots and injuries are concerned, but there are a couple of reasons for fantasy owners to be more than a little worried about this development.

First, while Hernandez did miss practice once last week, that was for the birth of his daughter, and after practicing from Wednesday through Friday and then sitting out, it's far from unreasonable to wonder whether or not Hernandez may have experienced a setback with his ankle at some point during the week.

Also, with each passing week that Hernandez misses, the "rustier" he gets, so to speak. This deep into the fantasy football season, many teams have reached the point where they can't afford another loss, and it's awfully hard to insert a player—even one as talented as Hernandez—right back into starting lineups after a long layoff with any sort of confidence.

This isn't to say that fantasy owners should just throw up their hands and give up on the third-year pro.

When healthy, Hernandez remains a top-five fantasy option at his position, and it's possible that the Patriots were just playing it safe, given that they laid 52 points on Buffalo in their last meeting even without Hernandez in the lineup.

With that said, though, it appears foolhardy to trust Hernandez to be able to make any sort of meaningful contribution to fantasy squads any time soon, so at this point, it appears that the wisest course of action is to keep Hernandez reserved until he not only returns to action, but is able to show that he's healthy enough to make a difference on game day.

The problem lies in whether or not that day will come too late.