The New England Patriots acquired tight end Tim Wright from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for perennial Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins earlier this week. So what does this trade mean for New England’s offense and, more importantly, its fantasy football prospects?
Does this trade signify that Rob Gronkowski‘s health is not up to par to start the season? Is Wright simply being brought in as an insurance policy? Or is something else going on here?
The answer is something else.
The Patriots would not have traded a veteran Pro Bowler such as Mankins without having a clear role in mind for Wright.
Tom Brady is coming off of his least productive season since 2006. That’s not just because he was throwing to some of the most inexperienced targets of his career, but also because the Patriots were forced to change their offense philosophy due to injury and, well, one of their key players getting charged with murder.
Some of Brady’s most successful fantasy football seasons came when the Patriots operated an offense out of a “12” personnel alignment, or a formation with just one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers.
That personnel grouping allowed the in-line tight end (Gronkowski) to use his speed to create a mismatch if he was covered by a linebacker. The Patriots could also use his strength as an advantage in the event that teams elected to cover him with a quicker safety.
Likewise, a big and athletic flex or slot tight end like Aaron Hernandez could either use his speed to blow by a linebacker or his height and strength to create a mismatch against a safety.
For Brady and the Patriots, that two-tight end set was a devastating weapon. In 2011, Hernandez amassed 910 yards receiving with seven touchdowns while Gronkowski went off for 1,327 yards through the air and 17 touchdowns.
While Gronkowski is not the player he once was, and Wright is not as physically gifted as Hernandez, even though he did play wide receiver in college, this trade will give Brady two built-in mismatches that he didn’t have last season due Gronkowski’s injuries and the lack of a viable second tight end on New England’s roster.
What is the Fantasy Football Impact of This Trade?
The real winner in this trade when it comes to fantasy football purposes is actually Brady, who is undervalued at his current average draft position (ADP) of 59.24.
He had a decent season last year despite the growing pains and other woes of the receivers around him. Now he has a couple of mismatches at tight end, an emerging possession receiver in Julian Edelman, and raw-but-talented outside threats in Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson at his disposal.
There is zero negative impact on Gronkowski as a result of this trade, who previously flourished in a two-tight end system when he was paired alongside Hernandez.
If anything, this trade gives Gronkowski’s owners a nice player in Wright to use as a handcuff should Gronk ultimately go down due to injury as he has in the past two seasons with recurring arm and knee problems.
Wright is not the equivalent of Hernandez, but the 6-foot-4 inch Rutgers product should emerge as a top-flight fantasy backup at tight end following this trade, and he’s a sleeper pick as a potential fantasy starter.
The biggest loser of this trade is New England’s current slot receiver, Danny Amendola, who will now be splitting his reps in some capacity with Wright. While that might benefit Amendola’s health following his long history of injuries, it all but kills his fantasy value.
While New England’s backfield is currently a hot mess, boasting a lot of potential if you’re looking for a one-night stand but nobody you really want to commit to long-term, this trade shouldn’t affect the team’s overall goal-line production.
The last time the Patriots had two productive and athletic pass-catching tight ends play basically a full season, it was 2011. Not only did Brady throw for 39 touchdowns that season, the Patriots also amassed 18 touchdowns on the ground. In other words, the trade for Wright should improve this offense as a whole, and there should be plenty of balls to go around for everyone this season.