Rapid Reaction: Patriots Waive Aaron Hernandez
After news broke that Aaron Hernandez was arrested as a result of an ongoing homicide investigation, the New England Patriots announced this morning that they have waived the tight end. While the general public remains mostly in the dark in regard to the details surrounding his arrest, the feeling is that the Patriots’ security personnel knows more than we do – and it can’t be good.
From a fantasy perspective, Tom Brady’s value takes a slight hit. As our own Mike Clay pointed out just minutes after the news broke, 77 percent of the players Brady targeted last year are no longer on the roster. Considering Rob Gronkowski will be back (even if not right away), and Danny Amendola has shown that he can get open as long as he can stay healthy, Brady is not doomed. He remains a QB1 option, but he is no longer worth a fourth-round pick (his current ADP). I’d peg him as a fifth- or sixth-round pick now, where plenty of other quarterbacks are being drafted.
Hernandez’s release shakes up the landscape of tight ends, too. Even though he mostly played as a receiver (he was lined up as a receiver on 59 percent of his snaps last season), he still scored fantasy points as a tight end. Only Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham were being drafted before him, but with this news and Gronk’s cloudy status, Graham is the fantasy “winner” here.
Because Graham is lining up to be that much better than everyone else at the tight end position, some are arguing he’s worth a first-round pick. However, players like Gronk and Jason Witten could still offer more value for their ADP. Study your league scoring rules well before jumping on the Graham-in-round-one bandwagon.
The Patriots also have Jake Ballard on their roster. If Gronkowski misses an extended period of time, Ballard will likely see a decent volume of targets. Considering Brady’s recent propensity for relying on tight ends, he could very well be a viable option. However, once Gronk gets back, don’t expect a Gronk-Ballard duo like the Gronk-Hernandez one we have grown accustomed to. As pointed out above, Hernandez was really more of a wide receiver, which allowed them to go with the “2-TE” set more often. Ballard does not fill the same role, so his value is now explicitly tied to Gronk’s health status.
Don’t be surprised if the Patriots try to trade for a new pass-catcher in the coming weeks. As of now, they will be relying on a lot of injury-prone players and rookies. On the off chance that the Patriots do use Tim Tebow as some sort of occasional receiving option, he won’t see enough volume to be relevant in fantasy – they simply have too many other viable options to use him that way.
With Hernandez no longer on the roster, the player most poised to fill the void is rookie Aaron Dobson. His battle for snaps just got a lot easier, and if he can build a trust with Tom Brady (as Hernandez was able to do early in his career), he will become fantasy relevant very quickly. Additionally, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen figure to be expected to take some of the load off of Brady (Ridley on the ground, Vereen in the short passing game).
Click it here for updated player projections following today’s big news.