The whole point of drafting players like Gronkowski or Reed early, of course, is to put yourself so far ahead of the pack at tight end that you can make up for maybe having a little less talent elsewhere, so this is a bad position to be in.
You were undoubtedly left scrambling looking for a replacement this week, and I just hope you didn't go for one of the hot tight end pickups like Vance McDonald or Vernon Davis, because that didn't work out. Losing a player of Reed or Gronkowski's caliber is always going to set you back, but when your streaming options bust, it really hurts.
So, let's see if we can't find you some useful tight end options who might be able to carry you down the stretch.
Zach Ertz is the most-owned player of the group, and he certainly has the best recent track record. His play has been up-and-down this season, after what seemed like a breakthrough 2015 campaign, but he has been solid of late. Despite Carson Wentz's struggles Sunday, Ertz hauled in nine of 15 passes thrown his way for 79 yards and a score. You'd like to see more efficiency, but that kind of volume will play no matter what. Consistency will be an issue, but Ertz finished the 2015 season with a flourish and could do the same this year if Wentz continues to look his way.
Dennis Pitta was the most obvious touchdown regression candidate in the NFL, having hauled in 52 of 75 passes thrown his way entering Week 13 without a score. At just 8.4 yards per catch, Pitta was clearly not generating many big plays, and his presence in a mediocre offense further compounded those issues, but even then, 52 catches without a touchdown is an unsustainable rate for anyone. Pitta got his touchdown regression and then some Sunday, scoring twice on nine catches, while picking up 90 yards, the second-most of his season. Pitta has just three games with more than 50 yards this season, but he has a consistent role in a high-volume passing offense, which is more than you can say for most tight ends. Pitta is better than his Fantasy numbers before Week 12 indicate, and he showed it Sunday.
We've been waiting for Ladarius Green to break out for years, and every positive sign seems to be followed by three weeks of disappointing play. Hopefully that won't be the case this time around, because Green really showed what he can do in a breakout performance in Week 13. He caught six passes for 110 yards and a score Sunday after just 97 yards in his first three games coming back from injury. His career has been defined by inconsistency, so it's hard to know for sure whether this is the start of a breakout, or just another high to be followed by a series of more lows. Either way, You can't ignore this kind of upside. Green, in this offense, could be a championship-winner in Fantasy.
The early returns weren't great, but if you looked below the surface, you could see hints of Brandon LaFell's breakout coming. Though he had just 70 yards in the previous two games without A.J. Green, LaFell had established himself as Andy Dalton's top option, leading the team in targets in Week 12, the first full game without Green. He had nine in the previous game as well, a good sign that LaFell just needed to get loose to put together a big game. LaFell was a big part of Andy Dalton's strong showing Sunday, hauling in five of seven passes thrown his way for 95 yards and a touchdown. His seven targets once again led the way for Cincinnati, and LaFell certainly looks like the receiver to own here in the wake of Green's injury.
There wasn't much intrigue at the running back position Sunday, which has to be a welcome reprieve to your FAAB wallet. Fantasy players rightly go all-in on running backs on waivers whenever they become available, because reliably options are so hard to come by. There isn't anyone worth breaking the bank for, but one of Thursday's backs is definitely worth your time. Jerick McKinnon has been a big disappointment this season, as he has struggled to find room to succeed in relief of Adrian Peterson. The Vikings' offensive line has struggled to clear running lanes and McKinnon has contributed just 32.5 yards per game this season while ceding goal-line work to Matt Asiata. However, McKinnon did outshine Asiata in Thursday's game against the Cowboys, rushing for 41 yards on nine carries in the loss. He added five catches for 14 yards, including a touchdown, giving him two solid performances in a row. McKinnon had 76 yards from scrimmage in Week 11 as well, and has eight receptions over the team's last two games. Look, these numbers won't blow you away, but they may be enough to earn McKinnon a larger role as Asiata continues to plod. With matchups against the Jaguars and Colts coming in the next two weeks, McKinnon could be a sleeper contributor in the playoffs.