A Tier Unto Himself
You don't need us to tell you that Rob Gronkowski is an extremely talented player, and an even better fantasy asset. What you really want to know is:
- Just HOW good is he relative to other tight ends?
- When is the right time to draft Gronkowski?
Just about any Google search on Rob Gronkowski's fantasy outlook will mention that he's far and away the best player at his position. We certainly agree, and in fact a group of our staff discussed the topic at length last week. I think comparing Gronkowski to his 2015 peers understates his dominance. Let's remember he's not only better than his current league peers, he's better than ANY TIGHT END IN NFL HISTORY.
To prove my point, I used our Historical Data Dominator and compiled a list of the top fantasy quarterbacks on a per-game basis:
All-Time Best Fantasy Tight Ends, Ranked by Fantasy Points (PPR) Per Game (1960-Present)
- The tight end as an offensive weapon has truly proliferated over the last 20 years -- consider that the likes of Freddie Jones, Brent Celek and Zach Miller rank in the Top 40 all-time in fantasy points per game; yet they're nowhere close to elite versus their own peer group
- Tony Gonzalez ranks 5th in fantasy points per game, but it's hard not to look at his massive games played and realize he's in a class by himself and will have a bust in Canton very soon
- Kellen Winslow was a freak of nature. He's 3rd all time in fantasy points per game, yet he played in an era where the tight end simply wasn't utilized in this manner
- Winslow and his son are both Top 10 all time
Gronk laps the field:
- Gronkowski has averaged 10.6% more fantasy points per game than Jimmy Graham -- the #2 all time
- Gronkowski has averaged 21.5% more fantasy points per game than Kellen Winslow -- the #3 all time
- Gronkowski has averaged 24.3% more fantasy points per game than Antonio Gates -- the #4 all time
- Gronkowski has averaged 27.5% more fantasy points per game than Tony Gonzalez -- the #5 all time
2015 Relative Value: It's Gronk (and Maybe Bell)
Deciding a player's value on draft day isn't just about their projections, but also how they rate against others at the position. Let's compare the top rated player at each position:
- QB1 -- Andrew Luck-- 17 points ahead of QB2 (Aaron Rodgers), 118 points ahead of QB12 (Philip Rivers)
- RB1 -- LeVeon Bell -- 59 points ahead of RB2 (Adrian Peterson), 158 points ahead of RB24 (Carlos Hyde)
- WR1 -- Antonio Brown -- 15 points ahead of WR2 (Demaryius Thomas), 134 points ahead of WR30 (Larry Fitzgerald)
- TE1 -- Rob Gronkowski -- 60 points ahead of TE2 (Jimmy Graham), 128 points ahead of TE12 (Julius Thomas)
Gronkowski projects to be nearly 4 points per game better than the next best tight end, and 8 points per game better than the 12th ranked tight end. Only LeVeon Bell offers similar value.
Sounds Great, but Are We Forgetting About Tom Brady's Suspension?
Tom Brady is facing a 4-game suspension for his involvement in the deflated ball scandal. As we know, Brady and his lawyers are fighting the suspension but, for now, let's assume he misses the first month of the season. Jimmy Garoppolo will start for the Patriots in Brady's stead. Should we be worried about Garoppolo's impact on the offense?
- Garoppolo is inexperienced, but has earned strong marks in the preseason
- Gronkowski doesn't need to be wide open to make plays, in many ways he's an inexperience quarterback's best friend
- Bill Belichick and his coaches proved with Matt Cassel (when Brady tore his ACL) that they can still field a productive offense with an average backup
I'm not going to say that Garoppolo's presence in the huddle doesn't raise the risk profile of all Patriots' skill players. However, Gronkowski is a transcendent player and is surely going to be one of Garoppolo's top targets, no matter the game script. Let's remember, even if Garoppolo has a 20% negative impact on the Patriots' passing game, Gronkowski would still rate at or near the top of the tight end standings. I'll take Gronk at 75%-80% for a month to have him at 100% for the final three months -- including the all-important fantasy playoff weeks.
- Gronkowski is the most productive fantasy tight end in NFL history
- He comes into the season 100% healthy for the first time in three seasons
- Tom Brady will be back, with a massive chip on his shoulder, for the final three months of the year
- Tom Brady is suspended for the first month of the season
- Gronkowski has a checkered injury history
Fantasy owners are creatures of habit, and for many the idea of taking a tight end (or quarterback) in the first round goes against every fiber of their being. If you fall into that camp, so be it. There are plenty of ways to win a fantasy league and far be it for me to say you're wrong to stick with the tried and true RB- and WR-heavy approach. However, if you truly want to optimize your roster, very few players project as much relative value as Gronkowski. In fact, only LeVeon Bell is worth more on a per game basis. I'm 100% comfortable with drafting Gronkowski as high as 2nd overall. The good news is he frequently falls to the late first round -- making his value UNDENIABLE. Do yourself a favor, zig while others zag and take Gronkowski in the first round. You won't be sorry.
My Take: Gronk’s single tier atop the tight end ranks is worth the plunge near the end of Round 1, but I simply have to have a player who is a weekly threat for 15-18 points at No. 1 overall. That means someone like Lacy, Bell or DeMarco Murray. I’ll mix and match upside TE2s instead of paying the iron price for Gronk.
Tony Holm of FantasySharks thinks Gronkowski is a 1st round pick, but recommends you opt for someone else:
Right. Gronk is the only tight end that is worthy of consideration just about anywhere and anytime in a draft. How good is Gronk? 1.09. That’s where he legitimately could be drafted. I don’t recommend that you draft him there, but I wouldn’t send Vinnie and his cousins over if you did. If Gronk falls to you in the second round, I’d take that value and scramble for wide receivers later from my sleeper list. You get to enjoy bountiful production from your weekly tight end starting slot and that will eclipse what you’ll ultimately sacrifice at the wide receiver position. If you take Gronk in the second, I would actually much prefer you have opened with a running back as the wide receiver choices in the third round are going to be better than the running back choices. The running back choices fall off the first cliff (which is why it’s not a bad idea to get one before they do), followed shortly thereafter by the wide receivers and if you didn’t get one before that happens, you my friend, are screwed.
More articles from Jason WoodSee all
12 Quarterbacks Who Changed My Mind
18 Running Backs Who Changed My Mind
10 Tight Ends Who Changed My Mind
More articles on: New England PatriotsSee all
20 Receivers Who Changed My Mind - Wood
6 Divisive Quarterbacks, and When to Draft Them - Wood
FBG Predicts: The AFC East - Staff
More articles on: Player ArticlesSee all
3 Lessons Learned After Week 11 - Allen
3 Lessons Learned After Week 10 - Allen
3 Lessons Learned After Week 9 - Allen