NFL fantasy football: Welcome back, Antonio Gates

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Once upon a time, the philosophy of drafting fantasy football tight ends was “if you don’t get Antonio Gates … wait.” That was before Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham took the NFL by storm, ushering in a new era of tight end production.

Gates’ production has dipped in the past two seasons as injuries have slowed the big man from Kent State. But he has told anyone who will listen that he’s healthier than he’s been in a long time and is ready to be the player he once was. In the preseason, Gates has seem limited targets — some of that owes to the struggles of  the San Diego Chargers first team offense — but what he’s shown gives me reason to believe that he’s closer to the Antonio Gates that we got to know several years ago.

And what is the Chargers’ loss could be fantasy football owners gain. The Chargers receiving corps was already trying to find someone to fill the shoes of former No. 1 WR Vincent Jackson when Vincent Brown went down with a broken ankle. That leaves an unproven duo of Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd to carry the load in the passing game … or an increased reliance upon Gates. Considering Philip Rivers’ past relationship with his tight end, I’m banking on the latter.

It’s hard to think that anyone in your fantasy league is going to flat-out forget about Gates on draft day, but as a mid-round pick, he could fall just enough that you could get fourth- or fifth-round value from a sixth- or seventh-round pick. Keep your eyes peeled and your mouth shut, and you might just have a bargain fall into your lap.

Follow Marcas Grant on Twitter @MarcasG

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