Rob Gronkowski: Will The Gronk Be Back in 2012?
The New England Patriots have two immensely talented tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But every single day of the week, Gronkowski is the guy you’d rather have roaming the middle of the field, blocking, or going up for red-zone jump balls. He’s the biggest, strongest and arguably most versatile tight end in the league. Heck, he’s the one of the best all-around tight ends this league has ever seen.
It’s early in his career, but The Gronk’s first two seasons have told us something that sticks: the dude can score touchdowns and he does it on an elite level.
He notched 10 scores as a rookie off of just 42 receptions. His catch load increased quite a bit in 2011, all the way up to 90, but along with it so did his touchdowns, as he caught 17 scores and ran in one more.
That makes for 28 touchdowns in his first two years. Tony Gonzalez didn’t do that. Neither did Shannon Sharpe, Antonio Gates, or any of the other stud tight ends still playing.
The fact is, Gronkowski is a special talent and he’s operating in a special system with a special quarterback (Tom Brady). Now, I know it normally wouldn’t make sense for a guy to repeat 17 touchdowns in back to back seasons, and maybe Gronk won’t, but he’s not a normal guy, so you can’t use normal logic when deciding his value.
The biggest thing working in his favor the past two seasons is that a former Patriots touchdown machine, Randy Moss, was largely absent. He played only a handful of games in New England in 2010, and was “retired” in 2011. Without his presence, The Gronk went off.
Brandon Lloyd is a new face that should score some touchdowns, but he’s not Randy Moss. And some will say backup tight end Aaron Hernandez could cut into The Gronk’s scores, but he didn’t have any impact last year, and last time I checked, he’s still the backup.
I’m not saying Gronkowski will score 17 touchdowns again. He might not even score 15. But the guy is too good and too productive to pass on simply because history suggests he can’t repeat what he did last year. In fact, even if his numbers went down to 85 receptions, 1,100 yards and just 10 touchdowns, that would have still been good enough for a relatively close second place to Jimmy Graham last season.
When it comes to Gronkowski as the talent and his situation on the Patriots, you should have no concerns. He’s a valuable asset up and down the field, and he’s going to be one of Tom Brady’s top three targets in the red-zone at all times. That won’t change.
The other big question is if The Gronk has more value than Jimmy Graham. I’ve been saying yes all summer, with the open admittance that it’s as close as it can get. I really don’t think you’re losing with either guy. They’re both WR1′s in TE1′s bodies. They’ll catch well over 80 passes, will top 1,000 yards receiving, and I’ll bet both will crack 10 touchdowns again.
But ultimately, The Gronk has proven to be the more explosive scorer. He’s had the better numbers, and he’s also working in a system that still has the same head coach as he did a year ago, unlike Graham. And just going off of the only two seasons both guys have played, he’s done way more with what he’s been given.
In 2010, The Gronk hauled in 42 passes for 546 yards. Pedestrian numbers, seemingly, but he also scored 10 touchdowns due to his size, physical nature and his system properly utilizing him. In 2012, Graham caught 31 balls for 356 yards and five scores. The Gronk was the better play-maker and scorer, without question.
Last year, Graham had more receptions than Gronk (99 to 90), but finished with 17 less receiving yards and seven less total touchdowns. Two samples, and two wins for Gronk.
Everyone keeps talking about Graham being just 25 and the fact that he’s still raw and growing. He has so much potential and this and that. I don’t disagree with it at all, but Gronkowski would have to be in the same boat to an extent, wouldn’t he? He’s actually younger than Graham is (23), and he’s progressed immensely from college to his rookie year to 2011.
Really, comparing the two is just splitting hairs. But if you go off of the numbers and the facts before you, Gronkowski has been the better player, has just as much potential and now with a healthy ankle, seems to be just as safe and reliable of a pick as Graham – if not more so.
Last year was a freak year. Three quarterbacks topped 40+ passing touchdowns and three more topped 5,000 yards through the air. I don’t expect either to happen again – at least definitely not at that volume. Logically, if we can even use that word anymore, both Gronkowski and Graham will come down a bit from their out of this world 2011 seasons. And if they do, which to me still isn’t even a guarantee in itself, I still see Gronk as being a level above Graham in fantasy football.
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