Martellus Bennett has soared up fantasy draft boards lately. After going mostly undrafted during the early summer months, the New England Patriots tight end is now typically selected in the 11th round by mock drafters on Fantasy Football Calculator. On average, he’s the 13th tight end off the board.
The reasons for his surge are numerous. The 2014 Pro Bowler’s a proven weapon – averaging 66 receptions, 677 yards and five scores over his past four seasons. He’s been solid enough this preseason and reportedly looked good in training camp. And, while Eli Manning and Jay Cutler are both respectable signal-callers, Bennett’s never played with a quarterback the caliber of Tom Brady.
But one reason stands out above the rest. Brady and the Patriots have made two tight ends fantasy-relevant in the not-so-distant past. In fact, most would agree that both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were worthy fantasy starters when they were terrorizing opposing defenses some five years ago.
Gronkowski and Hernandez played together for three seasons between 2010 and 2012 and, in that span, combined for 362 receptions, 4,619 yards and 56 touchdowns. Gronkowski’s per-season averages (62 receptions, 887 yards and 12 touchdowns) point to his status as the alpha, but Hernandez’s (58 receptions, 652 yards and six scores) aren’t too shabby either.
Since most fantasy players won’t take a backup tight end, most owners pick Bennett late with hopes of him replicating Hernandez’s successes and becoming a legitimate fantasy starter. There are some viable options being drafted after Bennett and, given that he’s no certainty to go off in New England, you might be better served taking one of them instead.
One of the factors working against Bennett is Brady’s four-game suspension. New England won’t likely be passing the ball quite as much with Jimmy Garoppolo under center and, when it does, it’s likely that the young quarterback will look to Gronkowski and Julian Edelman first.
And there are several other weapons that Bennett will be vying for touches with. Danny Amendola’s been productive in New England over the last three seasons. New England added a big, promising target in Chris Hogan and also the return of James White, an adept pass-catching back who caught 40 balls in relief of Dion Lewis last season.
While not every player mentioned above is as physically gifted as Bennett, four of the five have the benefit of past experience with Brady. Given that the veteran signal caller split first-team reps with Garoppolo in camp, and faces a month long lay-off to begin the year, which could be a factor early in his return.
Bennett might still live up to his potential in New England, but given the wealth of talent around him, that’d likely mean 600-700 yards and five scores. Jason Witten and Dwayne Allen, meanwhile, are both going after Bennett and seem like surer bets to produce at that level.
That’s not to say there’s no hope for Bennett. If you particularly like him, then go ahead and take him in your draft’s later rounds. But you’d be wise to pair him with another late-round tight end rather than expect him to shoulder the load for you at the position.