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TRAPS & TRENDS: Week 6

Did Rob Gronkowski re-emerge as a legit fantasy option during an NFL weekend that featured 14 tight end touchdowns? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson answers that question and kicks the tires on the fantasy prospects of four other tight ends in his newest edition of “Trends & Traps.”

Any weekend of NFL action that ends with a short injury list was a good one as far as I’m concerned. Keep in mind that some teams conceal player injury information until Monday morning or Monday afternoon, so don’t be surprised if there’s a surprise addition or two to this list:

Week 6 Injury Report

QB Baker Mayfield (ribs)

RB Joe Mixon (foot; returned)

RB Miles Sanders (ankle)

RB Mark Ingram (ankle)

RB Raheem Mostert (ankle)

WR DeVante Parker (groin)

WR C.J. Board (neck)

TE Jonnu Smith (ankle)

TE Zach Ertz (foot)

TE Tyler Eifert (neck)

TE Robert Tonyan (ankle; returned)

We’re just six weeks into the 2020 NFL fantasy football season, but…

1. Is Tom Brady’s old safety valve finally cranking out some fantasy steam?

The Dude: Rob Gronkowski

The Damage: Heading into Week 3 action, I distinctly remember somebody who had compiled just two receptions for 11 scoreless yards on four targets saying, “I’m a blocking tight end.” Yup, it was Gronkowski, and his statement didn’t surprise anybody. Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians had rarely used the tight end in his scheme during the 2019 season, and 2020 started off the same way. Ironically, Gronkowski’s involvement in the offense started to expand during the third week of the regular season:

Week 3 – @ Denver Broncos – 6-48-0 on 7 targets

Week 4 – Los Angeles Chargers – 1-29-0 on 3 targets

Week 5 – @ Chicago Bears – 3-52-0 on 6 targets

Week 6 – Green Bay – 5-78-1 on 8 targets

That’s right – Gronkowski caught his first touchdown pass in a Buccaneers uniform this past Sunday. The scoring pass from Brady was a 12-yarder during the second half of the Buccaneers’ surprisingly convincing thrashing of the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday, and the eight targets was a team high. Is Gronkowski trending upward and becoming a much safer fantasy option than he was earlier in the season?

The Diagonsis: TREND

Gronkowski, who “retired” and sat out the 2019 season, is 31 years old, and numerous injuries and surgeries have sapped his burst and big-play ability. Gronkowski is probably still injury prone, too. He missed a combined 13 games during his last three seasons with the New England Patriots (2016-18), too. All that being said, I think he’s emerging as the third receiving option in the Tampa Bay offense. He’s still big and can still catch very well. Gronkowski drew at least six targets in three of his last four games. Arians hasn’t been big on tight end usage, but he’s not going to stop Brady from throwing to “Gronk” if it produces positive results. However, he’s not a must-start option. Consider Gronkowski a high-end fantasy matchup-driven fantasy TE2.

 

2. Maybe the NFL’s highest-paid tight end didn’t leave his receiving chops in Atlanta after all.

The Dude: Austin Hooper

The Damage: Coming off two 70-catch seasons with the Atlanta Falcons (2018-19), Hooper started his Browns career with a combined 6-72-0 on 10 targets during his first three games. That’s why many fantasy managers dumped Hooper back into the free-agent pool. During the last two weeks, however, Hooper has reappeared on the fantasy radar. Battling the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5, he compiled five receptions for 34 yards and his first touchdown grab in a Cleveland uniform on seven targets. This past Sunday, he hauled in five of 10 targets for 57 yards versus the Indianapolis Colts. That’s 10 catches for 91 yards and one touchdown on 17 targets in the last two weeks. Is Hooper on the rise into the small ranks of the fantasy TE1s?

The Diagnosis: TRAP

Hooper’s situation has lots of moving parts. David Njoku and rookie Harrison Bryant are solid receivers. The Browns, as we all know, prefer to operate a run-heavy attack because they’re usually good at pounding the rock, and it doesn’t look like Baker Mayfield has improved much from last season. Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry usually dominate the targets, and statistically Kareem Hunt has been Cleveland’s third receiving option. Add it all up, and I see Hooper as more of a fantasy TE2 who will get you a serviceable catch and receiving yardage numbers most weeks with an occasional scoring grab. Yes, Hooper has value, but if you’re expecting him to resume a 70-catch pace, it’s not going to happen.

 

3. Big-play dependent wideouts usually crank out inconsistent fantasy numbers from week to week. Does the same thing apply to big-play tight ends?

The Dude: Mike Gesicki

The Damage: To the frustration of fantasy managers, his production has been uneven from week to week.

MIKE GESICKI – 2020 GAME LOGS

WK

OPP TGT REC YDS TD
1 @ NE 5 3 30 0
2 BUF 11 8 130 1
3 @ JAC 3 1 15 1
4 SEA 3 1 15 0
5 @ SF 6 5 91 0
6 NYJ 2 0 0 0

 He followed up a nice Week 5 outing against the San Francisco 49ers with a season-worst dud versus the lowly New York Jets this past Sunday, which has riled up a lot of his fantasy managers. Is up-and-down weekly production the new normal for Gesicki?

The Diagnosis: TREND

Actually up-and-down weekly production was the old normal for Gesicki last season, which is what a lot of fantasy managers have forgotten. Listed at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds with seam-busting 4.55 wheels, Gesicki is essentially a big wideout, and he’s used in a big-play role. When Ryan Fitzpatrick took over as the full-time starter last year, he helped turn Gesicki into a solid producer. During the Dolphins’ last seven games of 2019, he found the end zone five times and cleared 75 receiving yards twice, but he also logged two scoreless outings with fewer than 20 receiving yards per game.

Unlike last season, Gesicki has a little more competition for targets. In the Jets game this past Sunday, Adam Shaheen caught three passes for 51 yards and one touchdown on three targets, and Durham Smythe made one grab for four yards and one touchdown on two targets. If you look at the game logs, Gesicki has been more unpredictable, too. He has played well in challenging matchups but tanked in the easier ones. As things stand now, Gesicki remains a boom-or-bust option. When Miami makes the switch from Fitzpatrick to rookie Tua Tagovailoa, all bets are off on Gesicki.

 

About Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson has played NFL fantasy football since 1994 and has been a featured columnist at FantasySharks.com since 2008. His 18 combined years of professional writing experience includes a five-year stint as a contributing writer/editor at KFFL.com. He has been a featured contributor to The Fantasy Football Guide since 2008 and has been published regularly in the award-winning USA Today Sports Fantasy Football preview. Matt is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and holds a degree in journalism from Northern Illinois.