THERE IS no better example of the value of savvy scouting than the subtle move the Patriots made to get Rob Gronkowski.
It was the second round of the 2010 draft and Gronkowski was slipping toward New England's selection at No. 44. The Patriots, however, got wind of Baltimore's interest in the 6-6, 255-pound tight end and the Ravens were sitting at No. 43. So the Pats called the Raiders, shipped them a sixth-round pick and swapped the 44th overall pick for Oakland's spot at 42.
Thank you, Al Davis.
New England traded up two spots and landed a guy who already is arguably the best tight end in football. On the verge of setting the single-season record for touchdown receptions at his position, there is no question Gronkowski is the best TE in fantasy land.
Gronkowski's 13 touchdown receptions equals the single-season mark shared by Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis. He has another that was scored a rushing TD. Gronkowski's value in the red zone negates the Patriots weak running game. He also gets spelled periodically by Aaron Hernandez, who would probably be a No. 1 tight end if he played anywhere else.
One more little element that makes New England's leap impressive is that Gronkowski missed the entire 2009 season at the University of Arizona because of a back injury.
Oh, and the guys Oakland got in return? Defensive end Lamarr Houston (the 44th pick) is in the defensive end rotation and linebacker Travis Goethel (the sixth-rounder) ripped up his knee in the summer and has spent the season on injured reserve.
Question of the week
How does your league settle the tricky proposition of ties in fantasy postseason games? Some use bench points. Others use points by the quarterback. Some (gulp) haven't thought that far ahead. Email us at FantasyFootball@phillynews.com or fax us at 215-854-5524. One random participant will be selected to win a Daily News Fantasy Football T-shirt.
Quarterbacks: Baltimore's Joe Flacco has been held to one touchdown or less in eight of his last nine games. He faces an Indy defense this week, however, that has given up 23 TD passes, tied for fourth-most in the league . . . Cam Newton's 13 rushing touchdowns are more than any other running back. LeSean McCoy is tops among RBs with 12. Newton had 237 yards, passed for one touchdown and ran for another in his first meeting against Atlanta, this week's opponent . . . It'd take some major maneuvering, but the rumors of Peyton Manning going to the Redskins in the offseason sure would spice up the NFC East even more. Keeper leaguers take note.
Running backs: Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier deemed Adrian Peterson "very close" to returning. Peterson practiced yesterday after missing the last two games with an ankle injury . . . Green Bay rookie Brandon Saine might be worth a pickup for leagues that stretch into Week 17. If the Packers have everything wrapped up, Saine could get some work in meaningless contests. Aaron Rodgers' owners might also consider grabbing Matt Flynn, Green Bay's second-string quarterback . . . Congratulations to Frank Gore, who will be in the real playoffs for the first time in his 7-year career. Now if he can just end his five-game slump without a touchdown and help those of us in the fantasy postseason.
Wide receivers: Carson Palmer would be a sneaky start at quarterback at Green Bay if the Raiders receivers weren't so banged up. Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore and Chaz Schilens all are battling foot/ankle problems and running back Darren McFadden (foot) remains MIA . . . San Diego's Malcom Floyd looked good in his return from a hip injury last week and should be considered a WR3. He'd deserve a play of any of the Raiders . . . Ditto for Santana Moss, who is playing against a Patriots secondary with more holes than a piece of Swiss.
Quote of the week
Gotta love NFL running backs who understand the correct fantasy lingo. Ryan Mathews knows if he didn't complete his 31-yard touchdown run on Monday night, teammate Mike Tolbert almost certainly would have.
"If I'd have gotten caught, the vulture would have come in and put it in," Mathews said. "So I tried to finish it off."
Mathews has 829 yards and four rushing touchdowns this season. Tolbert has 364 yards and five scores.
Ed Barkowitz, who has Matt Stafford in a playoff where the other quarterbacks are Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, has been writing about fantasy football since 2001.