by Ray Kuhn
And just like that, he is back. Did we really think we saw the last of Rob Gronkowski, the NFL player?
Regardless of your previous thoughts the answer is a resounding no. Two days before the draft, out of nowhere, Gronkowski has resurfaced. For the price of a fourth round pick, the All-Pro tight end will once again be catching passes from Tom Brady.
While New England fans can’t be happy about the recent developments, the opposite is likely true for Tampa Bay fans and fans of star power and outspoken personality. Regardless we are here for the fantasy impact. At this point, despite any excitement or attention this move will generate, that impact is unclear.
Let’s start with what we know. Health has never truly been Gronkowski’s strong suit as he hasn’t played a full season his 2011, his second in the league. When we last saw him in 2018 he appeared in 13 games, but he was not 100%. Far from it as his performance was not what we were accustomed to catching 47 passes for 682 yards and 3 TD.
To be clear, even when Gronkowski was on the field over the past two seasons he was often playing through some injury issues, so his lack of productivity shouldn’t be completely held against him. I would like to think that the year off will help ease all of his health woes, but at the same time it’s hard to get back in NFL game shape and regain all of that weight and muscle mass. Could he possibly return without missing a beat?
At this point that obviously remains to be seen, and as there likely won’t be a traditional off-season, we have to be a little more skeptical of his ability to jump right back into action.
What does work in Gronkowski’s favor is that familiarity with Brady, from whom he has previously caught 78 TD passes from. With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin out wide, the Buccaneers have built up a prolific receiver corps.
That brings us to an even bigger issue, as Tampa Bay’s tight end room is quite talented and crowded. I would expect to see that change, likely in the form of an O.J. Howard trade, but that remains to be seen. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that either or Howard or Cameron Brate is traded. Can the Tampa Bay offense support two tight ends?
Last season Howard was a disappointment as he caught just 34 passes (on 53 targets) for 459 yards and 1 TD while Brate added 36 catches (55 targets) for 311 yards and 4 TD. Combined that doesn’t make for a great stat line, but with Brady now under center it will be different.
In early drafts Howard is the 14th tight end off the board (most based on talent and potential) with an ADP of 127, while Brate’s ADP is 249 as the 30th tight end. As far as Gronkowski goes, my early thought process lies somewhere in between the two.
It’s hard to believe Gronkowski won’t be the starter, but how much of a time share exists and what his exact role will be is uncertain. Until we gain more clarity, or we see another transaction occur, some caution must be exercised. Yes Gronkowski was formerly the top fantasy tight end coming off the board in the first few rounds, but I’m not sure that still applies.
If you want a share of Gronkowski, take him as your TE2 or a borderline TE1 with another strong option at the ready as he very well could be more valuable to Tampa Bay than your fantasy team.
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