Rob Gronkowski

Fantasy football: Tight end replacements, pass-catching RBs, sleeper WRs

ap-zach-miller-shane-vereen.jpg
USA Today Images

Fantasy football: Tight end replacements, pass-catching RBs, sleeper WRs

I'm assuming you need a tight end.

Injuries to Greg Olsen, Tyler Eifert, Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed have turned a thin position into a fantasy wasteland two weeks into the season. Olsen is out at least eight weeks, Eifert appears to be out this week and has been brutal the last two, and Gronk and Reed will likely be game-time decisions Sunday.

The somewhat good news if you're in the market for a tight end, though, is that there should be several quality options available on waivers.

Here's a look at the top tight ends (and more importantly, top TE matchups) of Week 3, as well as suggestions at other positions:

Bears TE Zach Miller (vs. Steelers)
The Steelers have allowed just 27 points through two games thanks to a pair of favorable matchups against the hapless Browns and a Case Keenum-led Vikings team in Week 2.

Still, through two weeks they've allowed 10 catches and 107 yards to tight ends. If you average that out to 5-for-50, you're looking at a double-digit fantasy performance in PPR leagues. In standard leagues, 50 yards would still be more than Eifert brought you in two weeks.

I like Miller for five or six catches this Sunday. He's been targeted 15 times by Mike Glennon through two games. Only Jason Witten and Zach Ertz have seen more targets.

Miller isn't going to win you a week or go for 25 points but he's a steady short-term plug-and-play this week. If it's a PPR league, he'd be my No. 1 target if you're looking for safety over a boom-bust performance.

Ravens TE Ben Watson (vs. Jaguars in London)
The only reason I can't put Watson ahead of Miller is because the Ravens' tight end picture is a bit more crowded.

Whereas Miller has run 35 more pass routes than the Bears' second-string tight end, the pie in Baltimore has been split more evenly.

Watson has run 33 pass routes while Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams have combined to run 34, according to Pro Football Focus.

Watson is by far the most accomplished receiver of those three and he was a prime target of Joe Flacco's this past Sunday, catching all eight targets for 91 yards. 

Watson also has a great matchup against the Jaguars, who have allowed 151 yards (fourth-most) and a TD to tight ends so far.

Watson has more touchdown potential this Sunday than Miller, so if you're in a standard or even half-PPR league, I'd give Watson the slight edge on Miller. In PPR, it's just hard to pass up Miller's 8-to-10-point floor.

Other TEs:
Jack Doyle is probably owned in your league, but if not, he's a better season-long option than both Miller and Watson. He caught 8 of 8 targets for 79 yards in Week 2 from Jacoby Brissett, who starts again this Sunday vs. Cleveland.

• Folks will be intrigued by Evan Engram's 4-49-TD line on Monday Night Football but I'd avoid starting him this week against the Eagles, who are usually very good against opposing tight ends. Travis Kelce was an exception last week but he's one of the top three tight ends in the NFL.

• Keep an eye on the Jordan Reed situation. If he sits, Vernon Davis is a decent option. Last season, Davis had 13 catches for 176 yards and 3 TDs in the first three games Reed missed, having a quiet game in only the last one on Christmas Eve.

• It would be bold to start Antonio Gates against the Chiefs' stingy defense, but Gates always has top-five touchdown likelihood at his position because of his rapport with Philip Rivers. The problem is he also has more 1-catch likelihood than most tight ends.

Running backs
Chris Thompson is available in 68 percent of Yahoo leagues. Whether or not Rob Kelley plays Sunday, Thompson is worth grabbing. If it's a PPR league, he has no business sitting on the waiver wire. He won't scoop up between-the-tackles carries if Kelley misses the game but he's always a factor in the passing game.

• I also like Shane Vereen (22 percent owned) this week against the Eagles. The Giants have a porous offensive line and the Eagles' strength is their pass rush, which should result in plenty of quick passes from Eli Manning.

Wide receivers
• I'd advise picking up Allen Hurns but not starting him Sunday against the Ravens unless you absolutely need to. The Jaguars are always going to be playing garbage time minutes and that's where Hurns shines. He had six receptions for 82 yards and a TD in Week 2 with almost all of that coming in the fourth quarter of a lopsided loss. Hurns is available in 73 percent of leagues.

• I trumpeted Jermaine Kearse in this space last week as a cheap waiver option nobody will use a claim on, and he picked up two TDs Sunday. The Jets, like the Jags, will always be playing from behind. Josh McCown-to-Jermaine Kearse is one of those average QB-average WR pairings that can produce points out of sheer necessity and volume.

• The Packers' Geronimo Allison is a sleeper option this week, if and only if Green Bay is down a receiver or two. Jordy Nelson' prognosis is 50-50 for Sunday, whereas Randall Cobb is expected to play. If both miss, Allison is an intriguing option who could get six-plus targets from a top QB. If Nelson misses, Allison is worth starting only if your next-best option is like Cole Beasley.

Defenses
• The Dolphins are the best defense to stream in Week 3 because the Jets are the Jets.

• The Bucs' defense (26 percent owned) is worth starting in Minnesota if Sam Bradford misses another game.

NFL Notes: Bills host free-agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin

NFL Notes: Bills host free-agent wide receiver Jeremy Maclin

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With prompting from running back LeSean McCoy, free-agent receiver Jeremy Maclin is making the Buffalo Bills the first stop in his bid to land a new job.

The Bills announced they were hosting Maclin for a visit on Tuesday, four days after the seven-year veteran was released by the Kansas City Chiefs for salary-cap reasons. Maclin has twice topped 1,000 yards receiving, but is coming off a season in which he was slowed by injuries and had career lows with 44 catches, 536 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

McCoy revealed during his charitable softball tournament last weekend that he began lobbying for the Bills to sign Maclin. McCoy said it wouldn't be a surprise if the receiver signed with Buffalo.

The two spent five seasons playing together in Philadelphia, and McCoy was a member of Maclin's wedding party last month.

Maclin is also familiar with several members of Buffalo's coaching staff, including first-time head coach Sean McDermott, who was the Eagles defensive coordinator in 2009-10.

Buffalo lacks experienced depth at receiver behind starter Sammy Watkins.

Jets: Team planning to part with WR Decker
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets are planning to trade or cut wide receiver Eric Decker, the latest move in what has been an offseason purge of veterans with big contracts.

General manager Mike Maccagnan says Tuesday night that if the Jets can't deal Decker, they will move forward without him.

Decker's departure will save the Jets $7.25 million on the salary cap. The news came a few hours after New York cut linebacker David Harris after 10 seasons.

Decker, 30, had 163 catches for 2,183 yards and 19 touchdowns in three seasons with the Jets, although he was limited to just nine receptions for 194 yards and two TDs in three games last year because of a shoulder injury. He had his torn rotator cuff repaired last November -- just over a month after having surgery on his hip, which had also been ailing him.

Decker appeared to be recovering nicely this offseason while participating in organized team activities the past few weeks, although he sported a red no-contact jersey during team drills.

Patriots: Gronkowski ready for new season
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When healthy, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski can be one of the most devastating weapons in the NFL.

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end is one of quarterback Tom Brady's favorite targets. Seemingly able to run through opposing defenses at will, Gronkowski is the first tight end with three straight seasons of 10 or more touchdowns (2010-12), and with three seasons of 1,000 or more yards receiving and 10 or more touchdowns. A three-time All-Pro, he led the league with 17 touchdown receptions in 2011, his second pro season.

The problem for Gronkowski and the Patriots has been his ability to stay on the field. He appeared in eight games last season before undergoing December back surgery -- the third in his career -- missing the Patriots' stunning comeback win in the Super Bowl. The last time he appeared in all 16 regular-season games was 2011. Since his rookie year, he has appeared in 88 of 112 regular-season games.

Gronkowski is confident he's fully ready for the 2017 season.

"Definitely no doubts," he said Tuesday after the first of the Patriots' three-day mandatory minicamp at Gillette Stadium. "All the hard work you put in is what you're going to get out of it. So, I love to put in the work, love the challenge sometimes. So ... now I'm good to go.

"It's always important whenever I get a little setback like that that happened, just get back to where I need to be and I feel like I am, doing everything out here, and competing. It's fun" (see full story).

Raiders: Lynch decided on comeback after team announced move
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- For Marshawn Lynch, the decision to come out of retirement and resume his NFL career was made as soon as the league announced his hometown Raiders were leaving for Las Vegas.

Lynch wanted to give Oakland fans one last chance to cheer an Oakland native playing for an Oakland team.

"Maybe them staying probably wouldn't have been so big for me to want to come and play," he said Tuesday in his first news conference since joining the Raiders in April. "But knowing that they were leaving and a lot of the kids here probably won't have an opportunity to see most of their idols growing up being a hometown no more. With me being from here, continuing to be here, it gives them an opportunity to get to see somebody that's actually from where they're from and for the team that they probably idolize."

The NFL approved the Raiders' proposed move to Las Vegas starting in the 2020 season on March 27. The following week, Lynch visited the Raiders to talk about the possibility of coming out of retirement.

That happened three weeks later when Seattle agreed to trade Lynch's rights to Oakland in a deal that included a swap of late-round draft picks in 2018. Lynch agreed to a restructured $9 million, two-year deal that includes incentives that could increase the value even more.

There were billboards welcoming Lynch back home and palpable excitement for Oakland fans.

"It was heartfelt," Lynch said. "At the end of the day, I still walk outside. Besides the billboards and all of that, I really just get out with the people. The billboards are for the commercial people. When you get outside and you walk in the cracks you get to find out what's real" (see full story).

Packers: Fans give stranded House ride to Green Bay
GREEN BAY, Wisconsin -- Packers cornerback Davon House got a lift to Green Bay from a couple of fans.

House was stranded Monday night at the Minneapolis airport while trying to get to Tuesday's organized team activities session. House tweeted that he needed a ride, and two brothers obliged.

Mike Johnson of Hudson, Wisconsin, picked up House for the four-hour ride. His brother Chad Johnson, who lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, rushed off to meet the other two.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports the brothers took House to Green Bay's airport to get his car. House offered to pay for the ride, but the brothers refused.

House insisted they follow him to Lambeau Field, where the brothers got to go into the locker room.

Terrell Owens stars in Super Bowl commercial alongside Justin Bieber and Gronk

terrell-owens-bieber.jpg

Terrell Owens stars in Super Bowl commercial alongside Justin Bieber and Gronk

Terrell Owens didn't even have to suit up in a single game to hear his name called on Super Bowl Sunday this year.

That's because T.O. will make an appearance on your TV sets during a timeout on the field alongside Justin Bieber and Rob Gronkowski in a new T-Mobile advertisement.

The trend among advertisers now seems to be to release their Super Bowl commercials far in advance of the big game in an attempt to create more of a buzz.

You can watch T-Mobile's effort below. I give it relatively low marks. Obviously Bieber will get the attention of some millennials and Gronk as caveman is pretty damn on point, but T.O. doing some mediocre-at-best dancing doesn't really add a whole lot. And the whole "unlimited" thing doesn't really remind you that you're watching a commercial for a phone service.

It could be an extra big week for Owens who will find out whether he's elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Previously: Chris Pronger jokes about heroic hockey hit on Justin Bieber