It’s only Week 1, but we’re already dealing with a number of injury issues. Some are still lingering from last season, while others have brewed up in the preseason.
That said, it’s the late-game injury designations that are the most worrisome in fantasy football. If you’re banking on the guys that are questionable to start, you have to wait until an hour before the game before getting the injury report.
However, things may be a little easier in one situation that brewed up Friday. Rob Gronkowski will not play Sunday night as he was not on the flight to Arizona. Back on Aug. 15, Gronk picked up a minor hamstring issue at practice and apparently still isn’t fully healthy, as he was limited at practice this week.
In Week 1, this news is unfortunate.
Hamstring issues are not something to take lightly, and if Gronkowski isn’t 100 percent, that probably means he can’t sprint at full speed. Trying to go all out with a hamstring that isn’t completely healed usually ends in re-injury.
So while this is upsetting for fantasy owners, it may be better down the road for your squad.
With Gronkowski out, the best replacement option is Jesse James on the Steelers. Playing Monday night and not widely owned, James is Pittsburgh’s starting tight end.
Martellus Bennett is the obvious replacement for Gronk, but not many that drafted Gronk actually got a backup for him and Bennett is likely on a different team.
James is expected to be Pittsburgh’s top tight end after Heath Miller said goodbye, and he still believed he was the No. 1 even when they brought in Ladarius Green.
But with Green out, James is the hands down top tight end for the Steelers. In their third preseason game, James finished with four catches for 25 yards and a touchdown, getting three targets from Ben Roethlisberger on the opening drive.
Washington was the No. 21 team defending tight ends last season (according to FootballOutsiders’ DVOA) and didn’t do much to improve their linebackers.
Throw in Markus Wheaton being “unlikely” to play and Le’Veon Bell already out, Roethlisberger needs someone to throw to other than Antonio Brown. Along with the mess of wide receivers the Steelers have (Sammie Coates, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Eli Rogers), James may be on the field more consistently than any of them, which only means the targets will be there.
James should be available in most leagues, but if he’s not, Eric Ebron is a decent choice now that he’s practiced all week. As for the sleepiest of sleeper options, Cameron Brate is listed as a co-starter with Austin Seferian-Jenkins against a beatable Falcons defense.
Also, Vance McDonald has slowly moved up the tight end list, partly because Blaine Gabbert doesn’t have much else to throw to. And with James Laurinaitis gone from the Rams defense, there may be some communication issues in the first real game.
That said, James is still my choice and my No. 15 tight end with Gronk out.