What if Rob Gronkowski is lost for the season?
By Heath Cummings
September 2nd, 2012

Rob Gronkowski is being drafted in the first round of many leagues, so those owners would obviously take a hug hit, but what would happen to the rest of the offense? Who picks up the targets? Does Tom Brady fall off without his primary red zone target? Do the Patriots become more of a running team, or simply target the receivers more?

BUY

Aaron Hernandez, TE - This one probably seems obvious, but Hernandez would see a huge increase in red zone opportunities. Some of those will come in the passing game, but there's also a good chance he'll get more carries in the red zone as well.

Brandon Lloyd, WR - Defenses will focus heavily on Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez, so Brady will need Lloyd to stretch the defense. An increase in red zone targets for Lloyd is likely as well.

Shane Vereen, RB - Even with an increase in targets for Hernandez, the Patriots will need someone else to pick up the slack in the short passing game. As a plus, the loss of Gronkowski hurts the overall run game, and so the team will turn to screen passes and dump offs to Vereen as their de facto running game.

HOLD

Tom Brady, QB - He was Tom Brady long before Gronkowski came around and he still has a myriad of targets to choose from. His passing numbers will probably take a small hit (especially touchdowns) but his perceived value will take a bigger hit than what you'll actually see on the field.

Stevan Ridley, RB - Ridley would benefit from the likelihood of increased opportunity, but Hernandez is not as good a blocker as Gronkowski, so the questionable running ability of the Patriots may actually get worse.

SELL

Wes Welker, WR - Welker's trade value will increase immediately because everyone will expect a huge increase in targets. Welker has always been at his best when the defense can't focus solely on him. If Gronkowski is out defenses will initially turn a majority of its focus to Welker. You would have to be coy to get full value, but he could be a smart sell for a high price with less downside if you have to hold onto him.

ADD

Greg Salas, WR - Salas isn't the future Wes Welker. He's a more physical target capable of making plays on the perimeter. If Gronkowski gets hurt, the Patriots could try to test the perimeter more often and incorporate Salas with greater regularity. This add recommendation is probably reserved for mid-to-late season because Salas was just traded to the team in September and may need time to acclimate despite his familiarity with the Josh McDaniels offense.

DROP

None.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to cummings@footballguys.com.

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