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Faceoff: How Are You Handling Rob Gronkowski?

The Footballguys staff weighs in on how they are approaching Rob Gronkowski.

It is early summer and Rob Gronkowski is far from healthy. If you draft today, what are you doing with him? What are your thoughts on Gronkowski?

Jason Wood: Based on the latest surgery (and looming back surgery), I have no intention of rostering Gronkowski this year assuming his current ADP (22nd overall) remains intact. Could Gronkowski be back on the field and producing as his historic pace by the start of the year? Sure. But I've always believed that for every missed opportunity of passing up an injured star in the 2nd or 3rd round, I've avoided a half dozen complete disasters.

Heath Cummings: If I'm drafting today I'm taking Gronkowski as the #3 tight end no earlier than the end of the third round in standard scoring leagues. He only needed 11 games in 2012 to finish as the second best tight end but Jimmy Graham and Jason Witten are too reliable for me to take a chance on Gronkowski too early. I'm slightly concerned about the situation in New England with the departure of Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd and the health of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez out of the picture.

Ryan Hester: I don't know of many redraft leagues that draft in May (or even June), so the real question right now centers around what dynasty owners are to do with Gronkowski. If I owned him, I'd be holding on and not selling him for anything I felt was less than "market value" (i.e. $1 for $1). If I don't own him, I'm offering 75 cents on the dollar to his owner and hoping I catch him in a panicky spot.

Redraft leagues are different, though, as they obviously don't capture any of the value the player can provide your team past this upcoming season. So if I were in a redraft league that was drafting now, I'd be skeptical of Gronkowski. Building on Jason and Heath's points made before me, I would not take him at 22 overall but also wouldn't discount him very significantly because we haven't heard any news suggesting that he'll miss some games. Remember, 12 games of Gronkowski plus four games of a replacement-level tight end could still leave you with the best or second-best score from the position in your league.

Matt Waldman: I got lowball offers for Gronkowski from three owners in a dynasty league this spring and then a compelling offer that included Vernon Davis, but I didn't budge. I'm keeping the big fella in these formats. In re-draft leagues, I'm either taking Jimmy Graham or waiting a while. Gronkowski isn't in the picture for me this year until there's information worthwhile about his 2013 prospects. We really don't know anything.

Although Dr. Jene Bramel says the back injury isn't as big of a concern as the forearm (and who am I to disagree?), but it was back issues that dropped Gronkowski's stock. While back issues get worse with age, they Gronkowski should have another 3- 4 strong years in him once the forearm gets better.

I agree with Wood about the conservative approach in the early rounds. It's just good wisdom to keep the question marks to a minimum in the opening rounds of a draft.

Chad Parsons: Until told otherwise, I will assume Rob Gronkowski will be ready to go Week 1 and value him accordingly. Even hedging that bet by assuming he is physically-compromised to open the season, Gronkowski is a dominant difference-maker at the tight end position, making it difficult to move him down much at all. I remember Jason Witten being downgraded significantly because of his uncertainty to open 2012. While different players and different situations, Gronkowski should be approached in a similar manner this year. The uncertainty will create value in drafting Gronkowski in the early stages. Even in August, I can see the Patriots being ambiguous at best about their plans and timetable with Gronkowski. At the end of the day, his upside at a position that lacks top-end depth, is too great to discount.

Wood: That's certainly a workable strategy, but my problem with it in this case is you're not going to be told otherwise until 99.9% of drafts are over. He's not going to be a part of the preseason, so you're drafting him purely on faith that he won't suffer a setback or need time to round back into shape.

In terms of dynasty leagues, I'm far more forgiving because Gronkowski is an obscenely elite (VBD+++++) difference maker in his prime that I would almost be willing to treat this year as a red shirt.

Parsons: True, it does take faith and some risk tolerance with this valuation. My larger point is that we are not discussion Jermaine Gresham or Dennis Pitta. This is Gronkowski, a top-5 level wide receiver type when healthy that owners have the luxury to play at tight end. The higher the upside of the player, the more tolerance owners should have (in my opinion) because the juice is worth the squeeze.

Waldman: Well, with the news out now that Gronkowski's surgery was a success and the doctors believe the forearm infection is gone so they put the new plates in. This is the best possible news. If the details of the recoery time make him ready for August, I'm game this year. But each week into August or September that he'll be "ready to participate" in camp is a round or two I'm dropping him in drafts do to conditioning.

Jeff Haseley: The news indicating that Rob Gronkowski's infection in his forearm has cleared is definitely good news, but he is not out of the woods just yet. The recovery from his recent back surgery in June could extend well into training camp. The threat of him beginning the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list has lowered his draft position to the late third or fourth round. If he misses any time, it will be one or maybe two games to begin the season. I do not see New England putting him on the PUP list, which wouldn't make him eligible until after week six. I expect his draft position will rise back to the second round of redraft leagues come August. If this was the situation with a lesser known fantasy commodity, I would put more of a yellow flag on his potential success this year. Like Chad alluded to prior, it's the high reward that trumps the risk. In Gronkowski's situation, the reward could pay big dividends that makes the risk less problematic.

Jene Bramel: Here's what (I think) we know about Gronkowski in mid-May. His arm infection has likely cleared, his plate has been replaced and he'll need 10-12 weeks of rehab to be cleared for contact. Reports suggest he's likely to need a microdiscectomy -- not a more serious procedure like Peyton Manning's (microdiscectomy and fusion) or a procedure (laminectomy and bone spur removal) that would be clear evidence of a worrisome spinal stenosis condition. The decision on back surgery won't be made until next month. If he does have surgery, he should be able to rehab (1-2 months) in the same time frame he's rehabbing his arm injury.

If all goes perfectly to plan, he could be cleared to play by Week 1. That outcome is certainly more likely today than it was before his most recent arm surgery. But there are lots of potential pitfalls along the way. Another infectious setback, delays in his arm rehab, a more serious than reported back surgery, the inability to regain full strength in his arm even if there are no rehab setbacks, etc. are all possible reasons he could miss regular season time. In the longer term, it is very possible that neither injury will impact his play in 2014 and beyond.

To me, then, you tier and draft Gronkowski based on your own risk-reward tolerance. If you believe that Gronkowski's history screams "injury-prone" and don't want to be left holding the bag if he isn't ready until Week 3-4 and struggles to get back in form until 2014, take him off your board. If you're willing to assume the risk of a frustrating fantasy season from a player you draft highly in the hopes that Gronkowski returns effectively early in the regular season and benefits greatly from the ongoing transition in the Patriots' receiving personnel, then keep him in your elite tier and decide whether you want to risk waiting to see if he comes at a discount or not.

I think I'd lean toward the latter, but have no argument with those who decide the reward isn't worth the risk.

Stephen Holloway: I think that I will be grabbing Gronkowski, particularly if he winds up being the third of fourth tight end off the board, despite the uncertainty around whether he will be playing from the beginning of the season. My consideration is that when Gronkowski plays, he is head and shoulders above almost all other tight ends. Even though he might not be able to play early on and you must have a capable replacement, it's a solid plan because there is a huge compressed zone among this year's tight ends after the top five. It is very likely that you will be able to draft Brian Pettigrew, Jermaine Gresham, or Dustin Keller very late and not lose many points to your opponents, other than those who draft Graham, Witten, or Gonzalez very early. The top five tight ends have current ADPs of 61 and above, yet number six is Vernon Davis at 78 and Pettigrew, TE16 is going at 139, Gresham, TE17 at 151 and Keller, TE18 at 169. Even knowing that you are going to be forced to draft an early season replacement for Gronkowski, you can get one with value not that much different than TE6 at a very cheap cost and still have Gronkowski for the stretch run and playoffs.

Andy Hicks: It really depends on when he gets drafted. At the moment his ADP is late 2nd round, which is obviously a high price for a risky player. Right now I would not take him at that slot, but if he slipped into the 3rd it would be worth considering. If he's there in the 4th, I snap him up and don't look back.

Gronkowski is that rare type of player who dominates his fantasy position (Jimmy Graham excluded) and if he plays he is worth starting over anyone. That domination makes him worth the risk and until further bad news is received, you must seriously consider him. Sometimes you have to takes risks to win.

Sigmund Bloom: I will run to the podium to take Gronk in the third round in early drafts, and when it comes right down to it, I'll probably take him in the second round right now too. He is arguably the most valuable player in FF when healthy, and so far there is affirmative indication that he will not be healthy to start the season. Gronk has gained an undeserved reputation as an injury-prone player. He played all 16 games in 2010 and 2011 and he was only sidelined last year because of a freak injury on an extra point conversion. Yes, the second occurrence of issues in his back is not insignificant, but it is not the same issue that cost him a year in college and caused his draft stock to drop to the second round.

A lot of people are going to be kicking themselves for passing on Gronkowski in early drafts this year.

Jeff Pasquino: This is all about risk / reward. Would I take him in Round 1? Certainly not. I try to minimize downside risk in the first 1-2 rounds, and five surgeries plus a changing offense in New England gives me some reservations. Sure Gronkowski is a force when healthy - but who is to say that he will be, not just for Week 1 but for the rest of the season? He gets hurt, that's part of who he is. He is a very physical tight end and as a result he does get banged up quite a bit.

I think another important point not to overlook here is the offensive changes for the Patriots. Obviously, Aaron Hernandez is out. Welker is gone and Amendola has been added, but Brandon Lloyd is also gone as well. That means the passing game is all about Amendola and Gronkowski. New England is hoping that one of their two rookie wide receiver draft picks can step in and become a home run threat and stretch the field, opening up the underneath routes for the tight ends and Amendola - but I am not 100% sold on that working well this season for Brady and company.

Bottom line for me - I would not take Gronkowski before at least round three, and even then I would not take him as the first tight end off of the board. Too much risk for me and downside. I would be targeting Jimmy Graham or Jason Witten over Gronkowski.

Parsons: That's the first time I have heard someone say Witten over Gronk.

Mark Wimer: I am in wait-and-see mode on Gronkowski right now. With Wes Welker relocating to Denver and a suspect cast of wide receivers in New England this year, I see the potential for Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (assuming he avoids NFL suspension due to his legal woes) to be very heavily targeted by Tom Brady.

But the news that Gronkowski has a back condition/underwent back surgery on top of his arm woes is enough to make me pause.

Assuming that the rehabs go well, I think Gronkowski is one of the best fantasy tight end in the league, and if I were drafting right now I'd draft him as the second tight end off the board, after Jimmy Graham. But I will be keeping close tabs on his recovery during the next two months.

Wood: I think this news of the back surgery is the straw that broke this camels back.


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