Aaron Hernandez release has major fantasy implications

In a stunning turn of events, the New England Patriots announced the release of Aaron Hernandez soon after he was taken into police custody early Wednesday morning. Authorities have been conducting a homicide investigation involving the death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, whose body was found near Hernandez’s home back on June 17.

The team said in a statement: “A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”

It’s difficult to focus on fantasy football when we’re talking about the loss of a man’s life — especially under these grim circumstances — so I won’t take any offense if you decide to stop reading at this point. Honestly, I am struggling with this piece myself.

But for those of you who are interested in the implications, well, here you go…

With Hernandez now off the roster and Rob Gronkowski’s status for the start of the season in doubt after multiple forearm surgeries and a back operation, tight end has lost a lot of its luster. Remember, the position was already one of the most difficult to fill in your starting lineup last season — unless you had Jimmy Graham — so now you should wait to draft one (in most cases) until after the fifth round – I might pass on the position until Round 7 or 8.

Jake Ballard’s name is going to start popping up in fantasy sleeper talks across the fantasy world, and with good reason. However, I would temper expectations. While he is now worth drafting in the late rounds of most leagues, keep in mind that the veteran is coming off ACL and microfracture surgery. Ballard also can’t play Hernandez’s position, which for all intents and purposes was wide receiver in a lot of sets.

The loss of Hernandez also puts another dent into the fantasy value of Tom Brady, who has now lost four of his top five receivers from last season (Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead, Hernandez). His best options in the pass attack, at least until Gronkowski returns, include Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins, Aaron Dobson, Donald Jones and Ballard.

As of right now, Amendola and Ballard are the lone draftable options in 10-team leagues.

As for Brady, I dropped the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback to fifth at his position earlier this week, behind Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton.

He would be moved even lower if it weren’t for the fact that, well, he’s Tom Brady.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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