Fantasy managers relying on Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree needed to look elsewhere in Week 13 because he was unavailable because of suspension. That wasn't such a big deal, as Crabtree isn't regarded as one of the top statistical options in fantasy, the Raiders offense hasn't exactly thrived with him and he's more like a borderline top-20 choice anyway. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, of course, is a bit different. He also behaved poorly during a recent game, and the result is also a suspension, so fantasy managers will need to prepare for the first week of the playoffs with another fellow in the tight end slot.
Those who invested in Gronkowski for this season, either in the draft or with a trade, had to know there was always a chance -- perhaps a good one, based on precedent -- there would be the occasional missed game or more, and whether that's a result of injury or suspension ultimately serves the same purpose. The guy just won't be playing this week, at least as of Monday afternoon. Hey, we saw what happened with Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. Suspensions aren't really suspensions until we don't see the player on the field, but plan ahead regardless.
Gronk is set miss a tasty Week 14 road matchup with the Miami Dolphins. Gronkowski, the No. 2 tight end in PPR formats for the season behind only Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce, scored two touchdowns among his 82 receiving yards against the Dolphins in Week 12 and added 147 more yards against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. He has routinely thrived in the AFC East matchups, and it's likely he would have been ranked as the top tight end for the week. The Patriots do employ former Indianapolis Colts underachiever Dwayne Allen, catcher of five passes this season, but at least they've all come in the past four games as he's assumed a larger volume of snaps. With Gronk missing and Martellus Bennett on injured reserve, Allen could be considered a reasonable fantasy replacement based on potential red zone work, but wouldn't warrant a top-10 ranking.
Tom Brady doesn't have as many options to throw to as he did earlier this season, as wide receiver Chris Hogan has been out with a shoulder problem and running back James White has seen his role change. In fact, while Brady remains at the top of his game, it's the team's emergent running game with Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead getting noticed. Brady had been plenty efficient of late, until Sunday's disappointing statistical outing when he amassed a season-low 8.3 fantasy points. Such an outing isn't a big surprise. Brady has topped 300 passing yards in just two of his past seven games. As with the Saints' Drew Brees, he's throwing fewer times as the team runs more effectively. As a result, losing Gronk for a game won't drastically alter the team's plan. Perhaps the Patriots would run even more. I wouldn't assume Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola or anyone sees a larger target share, other than perhaps Allen.
Among tight ends available in at least half of ESPN leagues, Cincinnati's Tyler Kroft, Miami's Julius Thomas, Baltimore's Benjamin Watson and Buffalo's Charles Clay are among the top 20 in tight end PPR scoring for the season, while Detroit's Eric Ebron, Carolina's Ed Dickson, Tampa Bay's O.J. Howard and Cleveland's David Njoku are close. Arizona's Ricky Seals-Jones is the most-added tight end in ESPN leagues during the past week and belongs in the conversation as well. But really, none of these players boasts a ton of statistical upside except for Seals-Jones, as we've seen lately, although his volume remains lower than most.
Based on season results, the easiest defenses for tight ends to accrue PPR fantasy points against have been the Giants, Browns, Dolphins, Broncos and Redskins, so that bodes well for the Chargers' Hunter Henry, Jets' Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Cowboys' Jason Witten. They're each rostered in more than half of ESPN leagues, however. The Patriots' Allen faces the Dolphins, but it's not likely he would see a Gronkowski-type workload when it comes to Tom Brady's attention, although Allen has been playing roughly half the snaps the past few games.
Kroft entered the Monday night game against the Steelers having scored touchdowns in consecutive games, but with a total of 30 receiving yards in his past three contests. Clay, with 10 receptions in his past three games but nary a touchdown since September and dealing with a questionable quarterback situation, also doesn't come particularly recommended. Njoku has played better of late, but faces the Packers, the team permitting the fewest fantasy points to tight ends. Frankly, the top options to look at for Week 14 appear to be New England's Allen and Seals-Jones, the latter having caught 170 yards worth of passes and three touchdowns in his three games.
One more note on the tight end spot: Philadelphia Eagles breakout star Zach Ertz left Sunday night's loss in Seattle with a concussion and his availability for Week 14 against the Los Angeles Rams isn't likely to be cleared up until Thursday or Friday. Fantasy managers should plan ahead just in case, and Seals-Jones does seem like the smart pickup. The Eagles can turn to Brent Celek and Trey Burton as they aim to get the offense back on track, but neither would warrant more fantasy attention than New England's Allen.