Gronk Fantasy 2018
Players in the New England sports market are used to extreme scrutiny from local reporters. Even so, Rob Gronkowski’s offseason has been a wild ride, and I’m not even including his recent stake in a horse named Gronkowski. From the moment his post-Super-Bowl press conference began following the Patriots’ 41-33 loss to the Eagles, questions about his possible retirement were raised following his statement, “I’m definitely going to look at my future, for sure.” As Winter rolled on into Spring, more questions began to surface about his place on the team when he posted a series of cryptic tweets, and those questions increased with reports of his possible interest in joining the WWE or exploring action movie roles.
The speculation reached a fervid peak on Friday, with multiple Boston news outlets speculating on Twitter that something “big” was going down involving Gronkowski. Then, later in the day, Tom Curran Tweeted “Resume your Friday. I am told there is “zero truth” to imminent Gronk trade.” This was followed by an Adam Kurkijan Tweet that relayed a scenario involving Brady threatening retirement over Belichick’s attempt to trade Gronkowski to one of two different teams, and owner Robert Kraft intervening. Then came a statement from Patriots head of PR Stacey James, “I would say with the utmost confidence that none of that is true. None of it.” Finally, came the post de resistance, when Reddit user Redditlover1981 admitted that he had made up the initial rumor entirely to “prove journalism in 2018 is an absolute joke.” So, that was fun.
The 2018 Tight End Fantasy Landscape
When healthy, Rob Gronkowski is the best all-around tight end in the NFL, as well as fantasy’s #1 tight end. He finished the 2017 season with 227.4 points in a point-per-reception format, 5.1 points behind Travis Kelce, though he played 14 games to Kelce’s 15. Zach Ertz rounded out the top three with 202.4 PPR points, and the group were the only tight ends to score more than 175 PPR points. If Gronkowski were priced egregiously far ahead of Kelce and Ertz, the smart move would be to target the cheapest among them. But with Gronkowski’s ADP (via fantasyfootballcalculator.com) currently sitting at 2.12 (24th overall), he’s going only six picks before Kelce at 3.06 (30th), and 12 picks before Ertz at 4.01 (37th).
Gronkowski’s PPR point total would have placed him 10th among wide receivers in PPR. By comparison, Jared Cook, last season’s PPR tight end #12 with 132.8 points, would slot him in tied at #48 among wide receivers along with Keelan Cole. Selecting Gronkowski near his ADP allows for starting the equivalent of a top-10 wide receiver in your tight end slot, while still being able to attack far deeper position groups at wide receiver and running back.
2018 – The Contract
What’s my take on all of this offseason drama? I agree with Jeff Howe’s interpretation: it’s about the money.
Gronkowski signed a six-year contract extension in 2012 that would kick in in 2014 and extend through the 2019 season. While lucrative in relation to tight end salaries at the time, his contract’s average annual value of $9M is currently fourth among tight ends. Prior to the 2017 season, he agreed to add $5.5M in incentives that involved hitting certain milestones involving playing time, catches/yards/touchdowns, and earning All-Pro honors, and he managed to earn the maximum value. I’d expect he and his agent would look for an incentive package that could earn him closer to at $11M of potential earnings, with a larger portion of the contract guaranteed. Reports today indicate a contract resolution is “likely, but not imminent.”
2018 – Gronkowski’s Place in the Patriots’ Offense
The knock on Gronkowski has always been his injury history. Back surgeries, a broken arm, and subsequent bone infection, ACL tears; Gronkowski’s come back from a litany of serious injuries. Tight ends are, after all, more liable to appear on an injury report than even running backs. That being said, the only thing that kept Gronkowski out of a game last season was a thigh contusion on a short week, and a one-game suspension for a late hit. With a contract containing heavy playing-time incentives, the Patriots showed that they’ve moved past extreme caution with their star tight end. With a new contract almost certain to be incentive-laden, it’s reasonable to expect Gronkowski on the field for every snap he can be. Add in the expected four-game suspension of Edelman, and Gronkowski should come out of the gate running (see what I did there) with a massive target share from Tom Brady. Oh, and he was the most efficient tight end in 2017 with the targets he did receive.
Gronkowski enters year two of a commitment to Brady’s TB12 method, which emphasizes plyometrics and muscle flexibility, and it seems to be working well for him. Brady is about to enter this season at the age of 41, but he continues to defy expectations with his performance.
There are no significant injuries he’s currently pushing through, and there’s no reason to expect him to fall off of a cliff after winning the league MVP and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ #1 quarterback in 2017. Gronkowski has been in the league since 2010 but enters this season at 29 years old (just one year older than Kelce).
“If you’re feeling good, your body feels good, your mind feels good, the joy of playing the game of football is off the charts,” Gronkowski said.
His words were backed by his actions, as he was just seen in minicamp firing a ball over the back hill of the practice facility and over a tree following a touchdown reception. It appears as though the pieces are in place for Gronkowski’s chance at a fourth career finish as the #1 PPR tight end.
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