Fantasy Football

Are We Going to Regret Overlooking Rob Gronkowski in 2020?

Rob Gronkowski returns to the NFL after one season of relaxation and retirement. The fun-loving, Gronk-spiking tight end enjoyed himself with parties, CBD sales, and a brief stint as a WWE champion while away. A rejuvenated Gronk has landed in a more carefree environment in Tampa Bay with his one and only quarterback, Tom Brady, but many are hesitant to put their faith in the once perianal TE1. Will fantasy owners look back and kick themselves for not jumping on board the Gronk train at a discount? Or is it worth betting on other young tight ends with upside?

Gronkowski has finished at the overall TE1 four times in his career, a feat that Travis Kelce has accomplished each of the last 4 years consecutively. I’m a realist — I do not suspect Gronk can dethrone the reigning TE1, as George Kittle is the only player (in my opinion) with the skillset, age, and opportunity to accomplish such a feat. However, if managed properly, Gronk can finish as a TE1 (top 12) this season, which he’s done in 7 of his 9 seasons; a remarkable achievement considering his history of injuries. NFL coaches are better than ever at focusing on analytics and finding niches for players, and last year’s breakout tight end, Mark Andrews, may provide the blueprint for Gronk’s return.

Rob Gronkowski Fantasy 2020

https://twitter.com/ESPNNFL/status/1301272089761021952?s=20

A Young Model for a Seasoned Legend

Andrews finished last season as TE2 in STD scoring and TE5 in PPR formats largely in part to his rapport with Lamar Jackson and a knack for making big plays. Sound like anybody you know? He went on to post 64 receptions for 852 yards and leading all tight ends with 10 touchdowns. These stats may sound like a player that rarely comes off of the field, but in reality, Andrews was on the field only 41.36% of the Ravens offensive snaps, the same as former Raven, Hayden Hurst. Andrews was at least in the 97th percentile for air yards per game, air yards per snap, percentage of team targets, and percentage of team air yards, while also finishing in the 92nd percentile with an average depth of target at 10.4 yards. Hats off to the Raven’s coaching staff for maximizing the efficiency of their best receiver last season. While Gronk may have more competition for targets in Godwin and Evans than Andrews in Baltimore, their expected favoring of the passing game will feature many opportunities for everyone involved. Arians and company are known for abandoning the tight end position, but they also are innovative enough to exploit weaknesses, especially when working with a generational talent like Gronk. I fully expect for Tampa Bay, especially Brady, to look for the familiar Gronk in red-zone, third down, and game-defining moments.

Energized and Returning to Form

The grind in New England, compounded by injuries over the years took the fun out of the game for Gronk. He is now loving life in Florida and had a year off to let his injuries fully heal. Bruce Arians said “The back surgeries have healed…He looks to me like he was five or six years ago.” While his conditioning may not be accustomed to the heat and humidity of Tampa, it surely will continue to grow during training camp. Gronk may not like the idea of coming off of the field, as he has been a player who generally plays every snap, and prides himself on doing the dirty work, but also may begin to realize his immortality. Injuries have been a reason to shy away from Gronk in the past, but few players rarely get a whole calendar year away from the beating an NFL season provides, and at 31 it appears Gronk has plenty left to give.

Gronk will return to TE1 status

The commonplace strategy with TE’s in 2020 is either to take them early or take them late, which is fine with me. Kelce and Kittle are in a tier of their own, while Andrews and Ertz round out tier 2. These players have either enough upside or consistency to be drafted over anybody else at the position, but the next tier is when it can become tricky. I believe there are only three tight ends in the next tier: Darren Waller, Evan Engram, and Gronk. Waller has new competition for targets, and Engram has health concerns, so why can’t Gronk be your choice right after the Big 4?  The tight ends selected after this tier all have questions of their own. You may still be able to wait until later in the draft to select the future Hall of Famer, but nobody will blame you for reaching a little for someone with so much upside and is Tom Brady’s all-time favorite target. Using history to your advantage seems simple, so don’t overthink Gronk’s return or you may regret it.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Rene

    September 3, 2020 at Thursday, September,3

    “but many are hesitant to put their faith in the once perianal TE1”

    Perianal – best typo I’ve seen in a while!

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