2020 PRESEASON PRO
Corey Parson | Dr. Roto | Ben Heisler | Matt Bayley | Kimra Schleicher | Darren Summer | Ian Ritchie | Shawn Childs | Mark Deming | John Rozek | Ben Heisler | Frankie Taddeo| Roy Larking | Scott Atkins | Bill Enright
BUST: TE Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rob Gronkowski is a three-time Super Bowl champion. He’s been a Pro Bowler five times, an NFL All-Pro four times, and one of (if not the most) valuable tight ends in the history of fantasy football. He ranks third at the position in touchdowns. The two players ahead of him (Antonio Gates & Tony Gonzalez) played in more than double the games during their respective, illustrious careers in the National Football League. Heck, the superstar tight end was even the 24/7 Champion in World Wrestling Entertainment!
Despite all of the accolades, the big man has “BUST” written all over him in 2020.
Please hear me out! First off, Gronkowski hasn't played a game in the NFL since 2018. During that year, he saw a significant decline in targets, catches, yards, and touchdowns. He finished as the No. 11 tight end, behind the likes of Vance McDonald, David Njoku, and Trey Burton. While he did tie for ninth in points per game, Gronkowski was a shell of his former statistical self. Remember, he averaged over 16 fantasy points per game in the previous campaign. After 2018, he left the Patriots and started his career in WWE.
Whether or not the time off the gridiron affects him remains to be seen, but I do know that it takes time to get back in football shape. Also, the presence of the Coronavirus will keep Gronkowski off the field until the second week of September. That’s a 20-month absence. This could make a guy who was prone to injuries before even more prone.
Aside from his extended absence from the NFL game, Gronkowski is also entering his age-31 season. In the history of the National Football League, only 15 of 214 tight ends at the same age have averaged double-digit (10-plus) fantasy points per game. Based on last season’s totals, a player who averaged around 10 points per game would have finished as the No. 12 tight end in PPR scoring formats. Could that be Gronk’s ceiling?
If it is, his current average draft position (70.6) on Fantasy Football Calculator puts at major risk to fail to meet expectations based on where fantasy owners are picking him.
Next, let's take a look at the offense of coach Bruce Arians and how it uses tight ends. During his long career as either a head coach or offensive coordinator, Arians' system has produced one top-eight tight end: Heath Miller did it twice (2007 & 2009). Past that, the best fantasy finish at the position under Arians was 15th (also Miller, 2008). What's more, Miller is the lone tight end to post more than 51 catches or 631 yards under Arians' watch. Miller is also the only tight end to score more than four times in a single season in Arians' offense. This is anything but a promising trend for fantasy fans.
For those of you who suggest that Gronkowski is better than Miller or any other tight end who has played under Arians (which is true), I’d also keep in mind that Arians has never had the type of depth at the position, either. Gronkowski will no doubt lose some work to O.J. Howard (who busted under Arians in 2019) and Cameron Brate.
Let's also keep in mind that the Buccaneers have one of the best wide receiver duos in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Those two players alone demanded a target share of over 40 percent last season. That might not be notable if Gronkowski were the lone tight end option on the roster, but Howard and Brate will dent his target share. In fantasy football, every target (or lost target) counts.
All of these things, from his lengthy absence in the league to injury concerns, questions about his target share, and playing in an offense that rarely targets tight ends, makes Gronkowski a prime bust candidate. Hopefully, fantasy fans will look past the name and look at the facts because they suggest we will not see Gronk among fantasy's elite, and it pains me to say that!
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for the latest fantasy football news and analysis!
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