Patriots TE Zach Sudfeld Climbing Up The Fantasy Sleeper Ranks

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Patriots TE Zach Sudfeld wasn't exactly a name anyone in the fantasy football world was talking about before the summer, but he's slowly making a case as one of this year's potential fantasy sleeper candidates.

The biggest reason is simple: The team is lacking offensive playmakers at the tight end spot. A spot the team used a lot of over the past few years. Here is what the position has had to deal with this year:

  • Rob Gronkowski's status for Week One is still up-in-the-air. Even if he doesn't start the season on the PUP, he could still very well miss the first couple weeks of the season.
  • Aaron Hernandez. No need to talk about him.
  • Former potential sleeper Jake Ballard stands a good chance of being booted from the 53-man roster because he looks like he's running in mud while coming off complications stemming from knee reconstruction and microfracture surgeries.
  • Daniel Fells has bounced around the league and is nothing more than a blocker.
  • Michael Hoomanawanui - See Fells

This leaves Sudfeld as the possible lone savior for the Patriots. Or at least until Gronk is back to 100%. Sudfeld is a 6'7/255 behemoth who plays more athletically than his build. He had glowing reviews during OTAs, but wasn't expected to take a step forward. With the changes that have gone down recently, Sudfeld is working exclusively with the first-string unit at training camp.

Here's a snippet of what Boston Globe's Ben Volin had to say:

Don’t expect a ton of production from this (tight end) group, as the Patriots likely trend more toward three-receiver, one-tight end sets until Gronkowski returns. But there’s talent, especially with undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld, who may be the best all-around member on the field right now. He’s a tall red-zone target (6 feet 7 inches), the most fluid athlete on the field, and was graded as the best blocking tight end in this year’s draft. His injury history at Nevada scared teams, but if he stays healthy he’s got a roster spot locked up.

Fantasy Outlook

Sudfeld isn't going to be someone I'll be taking as a TE1, no matter how great he looks in training camp and the preseason. Once Gronkowski comes back, his value will take a dip. But if it turns out that Gronk will be forced to miss the first six games of the season, I'd take Sudfeld as a low-end TE2. The upside is there. Plus, Tom Brady needs playmakers after losing a few this offseason. Sudfeld could be a strong bet for redzone looks due to his size. If Sudfeld looks better-than-advertised right out of the gate, he could continue to be worthy of a roster spot once Gronkowski does come back. In terms of dynasty value, Sudfeld shouldn't be a free agent. If he is, snatch him up. While his worth isn't as high this year, the team could go back to a two-tight end offense in 2014 if they feel Sudfeld can handle the duties and if their three-receiver scheme doesn't pan out as hoped.