Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
Weight: 258 pounds
40 time: 4.68
Rob Gronkowski is a very talented prospect whose career at Arizona was shortened by a season-ending back injury before the 2009 season even began.
A two-year starter for the Wildcats, Gronkowski caught 75 passes for 1,197 yards and 16 touchdowns in the two years he played at Arizona; his most productive season came in 2008 as a sophomore when he made 47 receptions for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns. While he only played for two years at Arizona, Rob re-wrote the record books with the Wildcats and is the school’s single-game, season, and career record holder for receptions, yards, and touchdowns by a tight end.
Rob is one of the more complete tight end prospects in this year’s draft, as he’s a fantastic receiver in the passing game while also possessing the size and strength that allow for him to be a great blocker on the line of scrimmage. An extremely reliable tight end over the middle of the field, Gronkowski is a natural receiver with soft hands who catches everything that is thrown his way. He has a great frame for a tight end which makes him a large target in the passing game and he also has the long arms and good body control needed to extend his body to snatch the ball out of the air. Rob runs solid routes with enough straight-line speed needed to challenge the defense down the seam; he’s an old-school type of tight end who isn’t going to make many people miss after the catch, but rather is a big player who is very tough to bring down in the open field and will flat out run through defenders.
Rob is one of the better blocking tight ends in this year’s draft; he has the strength to drive the defender off the line, the athleticism to get outside of the defensive end and seal the edge, as well as using good hand placement at the point of attack. As a receiver, Gronkowski doesn’t offer elite speed, quickness, or agility; he’s the type of tight end who finds ways to get open and is as reliable a receiver as there is in the draft when he does; however, after the catch he isn’t going to make any defenders miss with his athleticism. Rob also lacks the ideal experience that you look for in a player; he only played in 22 games during his college career.
Durability is the biggest concern with Rob; in the September of 2009, Rob had surgery on his back (microdisectomy) to repair a herniated lumbar disk and nerve damage. It was reported before the draft that Rob may be suffering from spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of one or more areas in your spine that can put pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves, however Rob denied that report. Whether or not he is suffering from the injury, Rob’s long-term future may not be as bright due to the back injury. He also missed three games in 2007 with mono. A first round talent who will slide on draft day due to his injuries, I project that Gronkowski will be drafted in the second-to-third round.
Rob has the talent and physical tools needed to be a very good starting tight end for his team in the NFL; however, with his durability concerns and lack of experience at the college level, there is some risk with taking Gronkowski. If he can stay healthy, he has the potential to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player in the NFL.
Notes: Rob was named third-team All-American and first-team All-Pac 10 in 2008, as well as honorable mention All-Pac 10 in 2007. A former top recruit coming out of high school, Rob was rated as a four-star prospect as well as the No. 8 player in the state of Pennsylvania and No. 4 tight end in the country by Rivals.com. Rob has great bloodlines; his dad, Gordon, played football at Syracuse; one of his brothers, Dan, played tight end at Maryland and currently plays for the Detroit Lions; another brother, Chris, also played with him at Arizona; a third brother, Gordie, played minor league baseball in the Los Angeles Angels’ system. As a junior in high school, Rob caught 36 passes for 648 yards and seven touchdowns while also recording 73 tackles and six sacks on defense. He was also a successful basketball player in high school, having averaged 21 points and 18 rebounds per game as a senior.
As Dirty Harry Callahan once said, do you feel lucky? A healthy Gronkowski has been compared to Heath Miller, a true every-down tight end who helps as a blocker and can be turned loose in the passing game. Notable in that comparison is that Miller is one of the few tight ends taken in the first round over the past decade to come into the league and put up decent numbers as a rookie: 39-459-6 in 2005. So if and when Gronkowski is on the field, there’s no question he can be a fantasy helper.
But the question remains, do you feel lucky? You have to believe that the team that drafts Gronkowski has cleared him medically, but you don’t want to pin your entire hopes on him staying healthy—especially in a larger dynasty league where, if he does break down, your replacement pickings are slim. Is your dynasty league roster large enough to carry Gronkowski and a backup? If so, the risk is minimal and the upside quite promising. Otherwise, he’s buyer beware.