Next man up: Patriots TE Jake Ballard looking sharp in OTAs
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Next man up: Patriots TE Jake Ballard looking sharp in OTAs

When the Patriots surprisingly claimed tight end Jake Ballard @TheJakeBallard off waivers from the Giants last year, they weren't planning on losing tight end Rob Gronkowski @RobGronkowski for what may be an indefinite period of time. But here we are. Gronkowski's status for training camp and the start of the season is very much up in the air, and Ballard has become a luxury for the Patriots.
Ballard is about 16 months removed from ACL reconstruction and microfracture surgery. He missed all of last season and used the time to learn the Patriots' playbook. He is still working his way back to 100 percent, but he said Wednesday that has become familiar with what New England wants to do, and he has "looked sharp" in organized team activities, according to ESPN Boston's Field Yates.

Fantasy Analysis:

I had written off the 25-year-old Ballard before. I didn't think he would ever make an impact as long as he was on the Patriots. But Gronkowski is down for a while, and don't forget that Aaron Hernandez @AaronHernandez is right in the middle of a four-month rehab period following offseason shoulder surgery. So, Ballard is definitely on the fantasy radar. We know he can be a big short-range touchdown target. We'll keep tabs on how this whole situation shakes out as we work deeper into the summer, by which time Ballard should be fully healthy, and we should have a better grasp on Gronk's recovery timetable.

ESPN Boston

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Brian Murphy -
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Los Angeles, CA
FFToolbox Fantasy Football Writer since 2002
Follow me on Twitter: @Spokes_Murphy.

I have played fantasy sports since 2001. I've played mostly in fantasy football and baseball leagues. I wrote for FFToolbox from 2002-2005 and re-joined in 2009.

I was an undergraduate from the University of Central Florida, and a master's graduate from Cal State University, Northridge specializing in journalism/mass communication. I make my home in Long Beach, Calif.

While I grew up in California, my favorite football team has always been the New York Giants.

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