Update: An MRI confirmed a complete ACL tear, which ends his 2017 season.
Much will be said about New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman’s knee injury from a million angles over the coming days, but fantasy gamers care about one thing, just from different perspectives: Who’s the next man up, and does he have any fantasy value?
You haven’t drafted yet
The clearest place to look is Brandin Cooks. He could play out of the slot and create mismatches in the middle of the field. New England will move him all around, though. Now he’s an even stronger WR1.
Owners yet to pick can mold draft plans around avoiding Edelman (duh) and targeting Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and even Danny Amendola. Hogan is the home run hitter of this offense, whereas Mitchell showed an affinity for the end zone as a rookie. The problem is Mitchell’s availability. A knee injury has limited him most of the summer, and he battled injuries in 2016, as well. Hogan becomes a strong WR2 target in all formats. Provided he is healthy, Mitchell could be an inconsistent flex play, depending on your league structure. He’s slightly better in non-PPR.
Amendola, a fragile underachiever, is the closest of the group to Edelman in terms of playing style. His game is tailored to point-per-reception scoring. Players in cavernous leagues should look his way as a late flier.
The biggest beneficiary? Gronk. Yep, that guy. Rob Gronkowski should see increased action over the middle of the field, but durability is a huge concern — especially if he sees more work between the hashes. His value increases slightly against the tight end field, as does his risk-reward ratio versus his draft placement.
A creative offensive coordinator in Josh McDaniels will find ways to mix in New England’s pair of talented pass-catching running backs. Dion Lewis and James White can flex into the slot at times and have to be considered weekly as viable flex plays in PPR leagues. There is an outside chance tight end Dwayne Allen even finds his way into the slot role from time to time. His fantasy value is sketchy, though. Injuries and a major learning curve work against him being more than a late-round gamble.
Addressing Tom Brady’s value is mandatory: He’s still a QB1, although slightly less appealing. Brady makes his money picking defenses apart with short and intermediate passes. Now his BFF likely will be watching from home. That has to knock Brady down a peg or two in fantasy rankings, but a rather cumbersome mid-tier section of fantasy passers helps buoy his worth. It would be prudent if Drew Brees vaults ahead of him. It’s a matter of preference between Brady, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan next.
You already drafted Edelman
Hang on to Edelman until the Patriots place him on Injured Reserve, because we all know the games this team plays with injury information. Once he is placed on IR, there is no chance Edelman can play in 2017, unless he is labeled “designated for return” … which would amount to the fastest recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the history of knees.
Gronk and Cooks will be gone in all formats, but Hogan probably went undrafted in casual formats. He becomes a must-add waiver target. Amendola is a consolation body — he’s no prize, but he could be serviceable. Allen has mild appeal if the league allows for flexing tight ends.
Just as New England will adapt and attempt to move forward to the best of its ability, Edelman owners must follow suit.