While there have been reports that the former Florida star will make a triumphant return from ankle injury in time for this nationally televised Thursday Night Football game, fantasy owners must be wary and be ready to adjust their lineup prior to kickoff.
Should Hernandez officially be confirmed as a starter or participant in the lineup tonight, he has the potential to become a top-scoring fantasy TE. With Rob Gronkowski sidelined at least four weeks after suffering a broken forearm, Hernandez will likely receive the majority of his targets and red-zone looks from QB Tom Brady.
Before this reoccurring ankle injury cost the third-year TE a total of six games (he missed Weeks 3 through 5 and suffered a setback in Week 7 that has kept him sidelined since), he was performing well in the NE offense. Hernandez compiled 17 receptions for 143 yards and two TDs in the four contests he has seen action in.
Coach Bill Belichick is also fond of using this versatile, powerful and extremely quick player out of the backfield. He’s only had one carry in 2012, but he was featured prominently as a FB or RB in the latter portion of last season’s Super Bowl run.
That alone adds a bit of extra fantasy value and another outlet for the 6’1”, 245-pound star to score and generate yards.
We expect the Patriots to throw early and often against the Jets on Thursday night, and Hernandez will get a ton of targets as one of Brady’s favorite options before the ankle problem. He’s a talented receiver who knows how to get open and create yards after the catch.
Don’t be surprised to see Aaron Hernandez go off, but do make sure you closely monitor his status before sticking him in your fantasy starting lineup tonight.