Rob Gronkowski is the clear leader of the
fantasy tight end position but is his Round 1 ADP justified?
I once won a fantasy football league with waiver wire pickup,
Jim Kleinsasser of Minnesota, as my starting tight end. The year
was 2003 and he posted mediocre numbers (46-401-4). I’ve
also won a league spending a high-draft choice on the New England
Patriots All-Pro Rob Gronkowski. It was 2011 and “Gronk”
was otherworldly (90-1327-17). These two diametrically opposed
strategies can both be winning strategies.
While Mr. Kleinsasser has long since retired, there are multiple
questions which need to be answered surrounding Gronkowski’s
2016 draft position. Will he be the best tight end again this
season? Is he worthy of a first-round draft choice?
Question No. 1 – Is Gronkowski
the best tight end in football?
Over the past few seasons, the top spot at this position has been
a battle between Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. But with Graham
leaving New Orleans and no longer the primary target of Drew Brees’
passes, he’s lost much of his fantasy value. Playing for
a run-oriented team in Seattle, Graham managed just 48 receptions
for 605 yards and two scores worth 6.6 FPts/G.
Meanwhile, Gronkowski has continued his elite production, scoring
a position-high 183.6 fantasy points (12.2 FPts/G) in 2015. He
led the league for the second consecutive season and third time
in five years (Graham was No. 1 in 2012 and 2013). Over the past
five seasons Gronkowski has averaged a stunning 13.08 FPts/G and
never less than 11.9 in any season. You know what you are going
to get from him when he’s on the field and it’s going
to be top tier.
So for me, the answer is … Yes, Gronkowski is indeed the
best tight end in football.
Question No. 2 - Is he a first-round
Paying a big price for a tight end only works when there are a
limited number of elite options at a position and the scoring
difference between the elite player and an average starter makes
At tight end, Gronkowski’s 12.2 FPts/G was just 0.7 better
than Washington’s Jordan Reed, 1.5 points better than Tyler
Eifert and 5.6 FPTS/G better than Graham.
Additionally, the upcoming season has a couple of built-in obstacles
for the Patriots’ All-Pro tight end.
Gronkowski will have to play at least four games without his future
Hall of Fame quarterback – Tom Brady. We know Brady frequently
looks for Gronkowski. We know Brady will throw it to him even
if not completely open. Since 2011, Gronkowski has averaged 8.14
targets per game. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything
about Game No. 1-4 starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. And I
hate unknowns, particularly when it pertains to my top draft choice.
Even when Brady returns in Game 5, there is another question.
How will the Patriots’ quarterback use his newly-acquired
tight end weapon - Martellus Bennett?
Although Bennett’s 2015 numbers were mediocre (53-439-3),
it was just two seasons ago that he was a huge factor for fantasy
owners, posting 90 receptions for 916 yards and six scores. Will
Gronk have to “share-the-wealth” as he did when New
England often utilized a double tight-end formation with Aaron
As I see it, taking Gronkowski in the first round is, at best, getting
“fair-market value” and if any of the questions raised
turns out to be a legitimate issue then it will end up being a losing
proposition. Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.