What Does Rob Gronkowski's Injury Mean for Fantasy Owners, Patriots?

Jamal Collier@@JCollierDAnalyst IIINovember 18, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 18: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots attempts to run through a tackle after catching a pass against the Indianapolis Colts during the game on November 18, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Rob Gronkowski went ballistic on the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, catching seven balls for 137 yards and two touchdowns. However, the matchup nightmare may be on the shelf for fantasy owners and the New England Patriots for the rest of the regular season.

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com reported that Gronkowski had x-rays on his forearm following New England’s win on Sunday. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal) reported that the Patriots fear that Gronkowski’s arm may be broken.

Comcast SportsNet’s Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran reported that Gronkowski’s arm is, in fact, broken. Tom Brady is going to be spreading the ball around to more guys as the Patriots’ regular season winds to a close.

The loss of Gronkowski robs New England of a big-time matchup advantage and decreases the problems that Aaron Hernandez can create as a second pass-catching tight end—when he’s ready to return from his own injury.

Hernandez missed New England’s Week 11 win over the Colts.

Brady has enough options in the backfield and outside to continue to put up top-notch fantasy numbers from the quarterback position. Without Gronkowski and Hernandez, Brandon Lloyd’s fantasy stock should rise by virtue of being a capable, healthy target for Brady.

He could be New England’s preferred red-zone target without the two star tight ends. Wes Welker has two total TDs this season and hasn’t scored since Week 6.

However, Welker should continue to see double-digit targets on a weekly basis. Julian Edelman had a big game on Sunday, totaling 222 all-purpose yards and scoring touchdowns in the receiving and return game. If New England elects to run with three or four wide receivers more often without its young tight end duo, Edelman could see more passes thrown in his direction in the near future.

Of course, someone is going to play tight end for the Patriots.

Michael Hoomanawanui (aka Illinois Mike) is a candidate to get targets from the tight end position should Hernandez also be out. He’s worth a speculative addition in fantasy leagues as a fill-in for Gronkowski.

A healthy Hernandez would make for a dynamic fantasy option going forward as well, but Gronkowski’s production won’t simply be replicated by one player—he is the single-season touchdown record-holder at his position.

Follow Jamal on Twitter