Player Spotlight: Rob Gronkowski

A detailed examination of Rob Gronkowski's fantasy prospects for the 2015 season.

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:

  1. Just HOW good is he relative to other tight ends?
  2. 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)

RankFirstLastYearsGmsRecsRecYdsTDsFPTsFPT/Gm
1 Rob Gronkowski 2010--2014 65 308 4,379 54 1,076 16.56
2 Jimmy Graham 2010--2014 78 386 4,752 51 1,168 14.97
3 Kellen Winslow 1979--1987 109 541 6,741 45 1,485 13.62
4 Antonio Gates 2003--2014 179 788 10,014 99 2,383 13.32
5 Tony Gonzalez 1997--2013 270 1,325 15,127 111 3,507 12.99
6 Jason Witten 2003--2014 191 943 10,502 57 2,337 12.24
7 Kellen Winslow Jr 2004--2013 105 469 5,236 25 1,143 10.89
8 Shannon Sharpe 1990--2003 203 815 10,060 62 2,194 10.81
9 Willard Dewveal 1960--1964 61 184 2,884 24 616 10.10
10 Jeremy Shockey 2002--2011 137 547 6,144 37 1,384 10.10
11 Dave Parks 1964--1973 118 360 5,619 44 1,186 10.05
12 Owen Daniels 2006--2014 115 433 5,144 33 1,145 9.96
13 Greg Olsen 2007--2014 126 465 5,188 42 1,236 9.81
14 Keith Jackson 1988--1996 129 441 5,283 49 1,263 9.79
15 Vernon Davis 2006--2014 133 423 5,446 55 1,299 9.77
16 Dallas Clark 2003--2013 143 505 5,665 53 1,394 9.74
17 Chris Cooley 2004--2012 116 429 4,711 33 1,098 9.47
18 Todd Christensen 1979--1988 137 461 5,872 41 1,294 9.45
19 Jermaine Gresham 2010--2014 74 280 2,725 24 697 9.41
20 Todd Heap 2001--2012 145 499 5,869 42 1,344 9.27
21 Heath Miller 2005--2014 153 532 6,034 43 1,394 9.11
22 Ben Coates 1991--2000 150 499 5,555 50 1,354 9.03
23 Ozzie Newsome 1978--1990 198 662 7,980 47 1,768 8.93
24 Jermichael Finley 2008--2013 70 223 2,785 20 622 8.88
25 Dustin Keller 2008--2012 72 241 2,876 17 631 8.77
26 Eric Green 1990--1999 120 362 4,390 36 1,017 8.48
27 Mark Bavaro 1985--1994 126 351 4,733 39 1,058 8.40
28 Dave Casper 1974--1984 147 378 5,216 52 1,212 8.24
29 Brandon Pettigrew 2009--2014 85 295 2,902 16 681 8.01
30 Mike Ditka 1961--1972 158 427 5,812 43 1,266 8.01
31 Riley Odoms 1972--1983 153 396 5,755 41 1,218 7.96
32 Brent Jones 1987--1997 143 417 5,195 33 1,135 7.93
33 Jerry Smith 1965--1977 168 421 5,496 60 1,331 7.92
34 Charlie Sanders 1968--1977 128 336 4,817 31 1,004 7.84
35 Freddie Jones 1997--2004 123 404 4,232 22 959 7.80
36 John Mackey 1963--1972 139 331 5,236 38 1,083 7.79
37 Frank Wycheck 1993--2003 155 505 5,126 28 1,194 7.70
38 Bob Trumpy 1968--1977 128 298 4,600 35 968 7.56
39 Zach Miller 2007--2014 110 328 3,804 20 828 7.53
40 Brent Celek 2007--2014 127 344 4,315 27 938 7.38

Interesting observations:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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.

Positives

  • 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

Negatives

  • Tom Brady is suspended for the first month of the season
  • Gronkowski has a checkered injury history

Final Thoughts

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.

Projections

YEAR GRECYDTD
2012 NE 11 55 790 11
2013 NE 7 39 592 4
2014 NE 15 82 1124 12
2015 PROJ-Dodds 15 81 1110 13
2015 PROJ-Henry 16 86 1175 12
2015 PROJ-Wood 15 85 1190 12
2015 PROJ-Tremblay 16 89 1175 13

Other Viewpoints

Rotoworld's Patrick Daugherty argues against taking Rob Gronkowski with the 1st overall pick:

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 Wood

See all

More articles on: New England Patriots

See all

More articles on: Player Articles

See all

More articles on: Players

See all