Barkowitz: With Gronk out, here are some passable replacements

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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski walks off the field with an injury during the second quarter of Sunday's game against the Jets.

WITH THE NEWS that Rob Gronkowski will be out for at least the rest of the fantasy season, we'd like to take a moment to look at the beer glass half full.

No more injury limbo for Gronk owners.

Ron Jaworski is fond of saying a football player's greatest ability is his availability, and that just hasn't been the case for Gronkowski this year. Hate to see any player have to undergo surgery, but, from a fantasy perspective, at least owners now have an answer. And it's not Gronk.

Take your optimism where you can get it.

Gronkowski, 27, has seen more operating rooms than Hawkeye Pierce and is scheduled to undergo herniated disk surgery Friday in Los Angeles. The most hopeful timetable for his return would be the Super Bowl.

The natural move for fantasy owners would be to pick up New England teammate Martellus Bennett, but he was already owned this week in about 90 percent of CBS Sports leagues and 84 percent of those run by ESPN.

Bennett also has been a disappointment the last two months. He had that monster three-touchdown game at Cleveland in Week 5 and hasn't scored since. An ankle injury is largely to blame.

Aside from a four-week midseason burst, Gronkowski has been either injured or ineffective this year. Guessing that most owners already have another option, but for those who might not, here are some tight ends who were mostly available in ESPN leagues entering the week.

* C.J. Fiedorowicz, Houston: Has 10 catches on 16 targets over the last two games, but no TDs. Fiedorowicz does not have a reliable quarterback (Brock Osweiler), but he does have a favorable remaining schedule, with three games against teams in the top seven of most points allowed to opposing tight ends.

* Vance McDonald, San Francisco: Has been targeted at least six times in each of the last five games, including a season-best eight times Sunday. The Niners play Week 17 at Seattle, which generally has locked down opposing TEs.

* Jermaine Gresham, Arizona: Getting a lot of fantasy looks after scoring each of the last two weeks. His 10 targets and five catches in Week 12 were the most he's had in his two seasons in the desert. Gresham had only 35 yards, however. Closes the season with games at Seattle and at Los Angeles.

* Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay: Averages about four catches for 40 yards, but finishes with four games against teams in the top third of opposing TE generosity. Two of those games are against the surging Saints. If the Bucs are to keep up with New Orleans, they'll likely have to throw it often.

Mailbag

Q: Do you trust Brandin Cooks to rebound after a no-target game? Or should I play Jordan Matthews as my flex, instead?

A: I'd go with Cooks; more reliable quarterback. I like the gamble of playing boom/bust guys at flex positions, but Matthews isn't that guy this week.

Q: Which two would you pick among Thomas Rawls, LeGarrette Blount, Doug Martin and Todd Gurley?

A: I'd go with Martin and Blount.

Q: Should I pick up Marquess Wilson and start him over Tyreek Hill or Donte Moncrief?

A: We have Wilson at No. 23 among WRs, with Hill at 26 (and Moncrief 30), so Wilson would be the slight play. Now, is it worth a hefty transaction fee? Not really. With Jeremy Maclin returning to practice this week, Hill's value dips a bit.

Contest result

A hearty congratulations to reader Russell Applegate of Old City for winning last week's contest.

We asked readers to project the number of passing yards Carson Wentz would have against the Packers. Wentz had 254. Applegate came closest with a guess of 256. For his effort, Applegate will receive a Daily News fantasy football T-shirt, which is guaranteed to be the hit of any holiday party.

Position watch

Quarterbacks: Colin Kaepernick has five TD passes and only one pick in his last two games. He ran for 113 yards on Sunday and gets a Bears defense that has given up at least two TD passes in four of the last five. He's right on the border of being a QB1 this week . . . Two quarterbacks have thrown for 3,000 yards in each of their first six seasons, Peyton Manning and Andy Dalton. That'd be a heckuva trivia question . . . Aaron Rodgers is trying for his fourth consecutive 300-yard game. The only other time he did that was in 2011.

Running backs: The Saints' Mark Ingram missed practice again Thursday with a toe injury. The Lions, New Orleans' opponent on Sunday, have given up only two touchdowns to opposing RBs this season . . . KC's Spencer Ware has been a disappointment lately. He's been held to less than 100 scrimmage yards in each of his last four games and has no TDs. The Falcons, Ware's opponent, held Arizona star David Johnson to 13-58-0 in Week 12.

Wide receivers: The 4 o'clock Fox game being shown in Philadelphia is the Giants at Pittsburgh, which should make for a fun first meeting between Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown. Beckham scored touchdowns in each of the three games he has shared a field with the other consensus top-4 WRs (Julio Jones and A.J. Green) . . . DeAndre Hopkins has 471 fewer receiving yards and six fewer touchdowns this year compared with his first 11 games in 2015.

Tight ends: Start scrambling for another option if Washington's Jordan Reed (shoulder) misses another practice Friday. Just plugging and playing Vernon Davis isn't necessarily the best option. Arizona, which hosts the Redskins, has been murder on opposing tight ends. The most yards the Cardinals have given up in a game is 53, and they're the only team in the league that hasn't given up a touchdown to a tight end.

Week 13 rankings

Quarterback, team: opponent

1. Drew Brees, NO: vs. Det.

2. Tom Brady, NE: vs. LA

3. Ben Roethlisberger, Pit.: vs. NYG

4. Aaron Rodgers, GB: vs. Hou.

5. Matt Ryan, Atl.: vs. KC

6. Derek Carr, Oak.: vs. Buf.

7. Eli Manning, NYG: at Pit.

8. Kirk Cousins, Was.: at Ari.

9. Russell Wilson, Sea.: vs. Car.

10. Jameis Winston, TB: at SD

11. Philip Rivers, SD: vs. TB

12. Matthew Stafford, Det.: at NO

Running back, team: opponent

1. Le'Veon Bell, Pit.: vs. NYG

2. David Johnson, Ari.: vs. Was.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, Dal.: at Min.

4. Melvin Gordon, SD: vs. TB

5. LeSean McCoy, Buf.: at Oak.

6. Devonta Freeman, Atl.: vs. KC

7. Jay Ajayi, Mia.: at Bal.

8. Lamar Miller, Hou.: at GB

9. Doug Martin, TB: at SD

10. Latavius Murray, Oak.: vs. Buf.

11. LeGarrette Blount, NE: vs. LA

12. Jordan Howard, Chi.: vs. SF

13. Carlos Hyde, SF: at Chi.

14. Matt Forte, NYJ: vs. Ind.

15. Jonathan Stewart, Car.: at Sea.

16. Mark Ingram, NO: vs. Det.

17. Spencer Ware, KC: at Atl.

18. Jeremy Hill, Cin.: vs. Phi.

19. Devontae Booker, Den.: at Jac.

20. Thomas Rawls, Sea.: vs. Car.

21. Darren Sproles, Phi.: at Cin.

22. Theo Riddick, Det.: at NO

23. Todd Gurley, LA: at NE

24. Rob Kelley, Was.: vs. Ari.

25. Frank Gore, Ind.: at NYJ

Wide receiver, team: opponent

1. Antonio Brown, Pit.: vs. NYG

2. Julio Jones, Atl.: vs. KC

3. Odell Beckham, NYG: at Pit.

4. Jordy Nelson, GB: vs. Hou.

5. Mike Evans, TB: at SD

6. Dez Bryant, Dal.: at Min.

7. Demaryius Thomas, Den.: at Jac.

8. Larry Fitzgerald, Ari.: vs. Was.

9. T.Y. Hilton, Ind.: at NYJ

10. Michael Thomas, NO: vs. Det.

11. Doug Baldwin, Sea.: vs. Car.

12. Julian Edelman, NE: vs. LA

13. Stefon Diggs, Min.: vs. Dal.

14. Brandin Cooks, NO: vs. Det.

15. Brandon Marshall, NYJ: vs. Ind.

16. Jarvis Landry, Mia.: at Bal.

17. Kelvin Benjamin, Car.: at Sea.

18. Amari Cooper, Oak.: vs. Buf.

19. Allen Robinson, Jac.: vs. Den.

20. Emmanuel Sanders, Den.: at Jac.

21. Davante Adams, GB: vs. Hou.

22. DeAndre Hopkins, Hou.: at GB

23. Marquess Wilson, Chi.: vs. SF

24. DeSean Jackson, Was.: at Ari.

25. Sammy Watkins, Buf.: at Oak.

Tight end, team: opponent

1. Travis Kelce, KC: at Atl.

2. Jimmy Graham, Sea.: vs. Car.

3. Tyler Eifert, Cin.: vs. Phi.

4. Greg Olsen, Car.: at Sea.

5. Kyle Rudolph, Min.: vs. Dal.

6. Eric Ebron, Det.: at NO

7. Jordan Reed, Was.: at Ari.

8. Cameron Brate, TB: at SD

9. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Hou.: at GB

10. Jason Witten, Dal.: at Min.

11. Hunter Henry, SD: vs. TB

12. Coby Fleener, NO: vs. Det.

DFS sleepers

QBs: Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford

RBs: Matt Forte, Theo Riddick

WRs: Dontrelle Inman, Malcolm Mitchell

TEs: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Coby Fleener


Ed Barkowitz, who would never waste a challenge to save two yards at midfield, has been writing about fantasy football since 2001.

barkowe@phillynews.com

@EdBarkowitz