Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots, 4.2% owned
As an avid Cincinnati fan displaced in Kansas City, I want nothing more than to miss on this one. During the 2009 season the Bengal’s defense was an absolute disaster for opposing teams. Wideouts were smothered by the tandem of Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph, but there was a common denominator in the teams that found ways to score points against the Who Dey nation: the short passing game. Lucky for New England, they have the personnel to devastate the short passing game should they choose to exploit it. What does this mean for a fantasy owner? Well take a look at the three positions that are generally highlighted in the short passing game.
Running back — In Cincinnati’s worst (outside of the New York Jets massacre) defensive showing last year, Houston crushed the Bengals with short screen passes to Steve Slaton. Slaton posted 6 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. However, because of the revolving door situation at running back, trying to pick a surefire sleeper would be more of a crapshoot. I’d tend to lean toward Sammy Morris since he seems to have a knack for catching balls out of the backfield, but you obviously don’t want to pin your hopes on a player that might not even step on the field.
Slot receiver — Speedy slot receivers seem to give the Bengals DBs an average amount of trouble. With Wes Welker lining up as slot in most packages, there is little to discuss in a sleeper blog as Welker is owned in 99.9% of leagues. If you happen to be in the 0.01%…you know what to do.
Tight end — And so we finally reach the money position. Among the teams that faced the Bengals in the regular season last year, the tight end position led the team in receptions 10 times. This stat shows a definite leak in the Bengals defense, and when teams chose to exploit it, it resulted in stat lines such as Zach Miller in Week 11: 5 catches, 65 yards, and 1 touchdown. While this line was not spectacular, it was pretty average lining up against the Cincinnati defense. Cut from the same cloth as Owen Daniels, Zach Miller, Heath Miller, and the other tight ends that proved to be problem for the Bengals, is rookie tight-end Rob Gronkowski. He’s already steadily risen to almost 5% owned given his touchdown littered preseason, but prior to Week 1 may be the best chance to grab him as he could easy post 50-60 yards and multiple touchdowns. Although Alge Crumpler tops Gronkowski on the depth chart, I expect to see his chemistry with Tom Brady continue to heat up out of the gate in Week 1. If you have a roster spot available, don’t risk having to go through waivers if he puts up a big game this weekend.
While rolling the dice on a rookie TE that doesn’t even top his own depth chart may not yield wins on weekly basis, becoming conscious of positional matchup trends will improve your total scores and assist you in making those tough gameday lineup decisions.