The New England Patriots offense isn't the same without Rob Gronkowski. Tom Brady hasn't been able to find his usual rhythm without his favorite red-zone target, and it's had a trickle-down effect on a unit that ranks 24th in points per game.
Patriots fans and fantasy football owners can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, however, as Gronkowski nears his return to the field. Pro Football Talk reports it's likely the tight end will play in Week 6, but Dr. James Andrews gets to make the final call.
On Gronk, it's not a lock he'll play. But likely. Dr. James Andrews will make the final call, per source.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) October 8, 2013
In the fantasy realm, Gronkowski immediately returns to No. 1 tight end status once it's officially announced he will play. It was expected to be a weak fantasy position heading into the season, and that's certainly been the case through five weeks.
Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints, the Patriots' opponent this week, has been a monster while the Denver Broncos' Julius Thomas and the Cleveland Browns' Jordan Cameron have provided solid production. Otherwise, there's been a lot of hit and miss among tight ends.
Last season, Gronkowski ranked second to Graham in scoring at the position despite appearing in just 11 games. He racked up 55 catches for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns. It was enough to average over 12 points per game in standard formats.
Between now and season's end, it should once again become a duel between Graham and Gronkowski for the top player at the position. The Saints star gets the edge because of his hot start and remaining question marks about Gronk's health, but both are obvious must-start options.
Along with owners who have been eagerly awaiting Gronkowski's return, those waiting for Brady to play at an elite level should also get their wish. Having a more reliable option to work with will be huge for the legendary quarterback.
Where will Gronk rank among fantasy TEs for the rest of 2013?
Entering Week 6, Brady ranks in a tie for 16th in scoring among quarterbacks. Even those who expected his production to slide without Wes Welker couldn't have seen him ranking behind Geno Smith after more than a quarter of the season.
Brady should return to fantasy prominence with Gronkowski back in the equation, though. The tight end's ability to control the middle of the field will give more space to the wide receivers on the outside, making the entire passing game more efficient.
Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson are probably the only regular members of the offense who won't benefit. They will likely see a decrease in targets barring more injury woes in New England but were only fringe fantasy assets to begin with.
Beyond that duo, things are looking up for the Patriots offense with Gronkowski back in the fold. Fantasy owners just have to keep tabs to make sure he's officially cleared for action in Week 6.
Week 6 Projection: six catches for 65 yards and a touchdown (if starting).