EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Gosselin has been resurrecting his college scouting reports this summer for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed draft prospects. Next up is Rob Gronkowski, who was one of only three active players named to the NFL’s 100th anniversary team.
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Gronkowski started at center in basketball all four of his high-school years, the first three for Williamsville North in suburban Buffalo and the last one at Woodland Hills in suburban Pittsburgh. He averaged 17.4 points per game as a senior. Gronkowski also played tight end and defensive end in football, earning a scholarship to the University of Arizona. He started at tight end his first two seasons at Arizona, setting a school record for tight ends with his average of 18.8 yards per catch in 2007. He earned All-Pac 12 honors as a sophomore after catching 47 passes and scoring a team-high 10 touchdowns in 2008. But a back injury that required surgery forced him to sit out the 2009 season, then he opted to enter the NFL draft in 2010. Gronkowski measured 6-6 ¼, 264 pounds at the NFL combine and ran a 4.68 40-yard dash. Gosselin rated him the No. 34 player on his Top 100 board, the second tight end behind Jermaine Gresham. The New England Patriots drafted Gronkowski with the 42nd overall selection.
Here are the pre-draft comments from 18 NFL talent evaluators on Gronkowski:
Scout: First round.
Tight end coach: First round…but do you feel comfortable with his back surgery? (Kellen) Winslow had the same surgery on his back and came back fine. This guy is a workout nut. He lives in the gym. Not as strong or as physical as Jermaine Gresham but is more fluid.
Tight end coach II: More in-line ability than Gresham. Has some nastiness to him. But he’s still a medical concern. Gresham is not. Second round -- too many red flags. This guy doesn’t have the video.
Offensive coordinator: Second round.
Personnel director: My #1 tight end. I’m a big, big fan but he comes across as a goof. He’s the most talented TE because of his size, his ability to block…gets open, catches and then RAC (run after the catch). If he had been healthy in 2009, he’d have been a Top 12 pick.
Personnel director II: Unstoppable in Oregon-Arizona game in 2008 (12 catches, 143 yards).
Personnel director III: The more you watch, the more you like.
Personnel director IV: High 2 but turned off by his (combine) interview.
Personnel director V: Second round.
Personnel director VI: Third round.
Head coach: A prima donna.
General manager: So stiff.
General manager II: Off our board medically.
General manager III: First round.
General manager IV: Late first round.
General manager V: Off our board medically.
General manager VI: Jason Witten.
General manager VII: Second round.
HALL OF FAME RESUME: The NFL has never seen a tight end the likes of Gronkowski. In 2011, he became the first tight end in history to catch 1,300 yards in passes and also set an NFL position record with 17 touchdowns that season. He played nine seasons in New England, helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls, then retired after the 2019 season. But he unretired in 2020 to join Tom Brady in Tampa and help the Buccaneers win a Lombardi Trophy. Gronkowski ranks third all-time among tight ends in touchdowns with 86, trailing only Antonio Gates (116) and Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez (111). Gonzalez played 17 seasons, Gates 16 and Gronkowski 11. Gronkowski also is averaging 15.0 yards per career catch – that’s better than Hall of Fame WRs Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens, who both averaged 14.8 yards per catch. In addition to his six Pro Bowls, Gronkowski was voted to both the NFL’s 2010 all-decade team and the league’s 100th anniversary team.