Rob Gronkowski Fantasy Football Outlook With Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rob Gronkowski

Three-time Super Bowl champion and WWE superstar Rob Gronkowski is the newest member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The big tight end is reportedly coming out of retirement to reunite with his longtime quarterback, Tom Brady. Gronkowski, of course, was arguably the most unstoppable force in the league when healthy and on the field. The question fantasy football owners need to ask is if Gronkowski has anything left in the tank and whether he’s a fit in Bruce Arians’ offense.

Rob Gronkowski Fantasy Football Outlook With Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rob Gronkowski the Player

Obviously, nobody expects Rob Gronkowski to come back and play like his 2011 self. That version of Rob Gronkowski is long gone, but he can still be an effective player. Last we saw Gronkowski, the stud tight end was a shell of himself but still a productive asset in the passing game. In 2018, Gronkowski ended the year with 47 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games.

However, it’s worth noting that Gronkowski played through a wide variety of injuries throughout the campaign. He was only fully healthy in Week 1, when he went off for seven receptions, 123 yards, and one touchdown. He showed signs of being his old self throughout the season, like when he recorded eight receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 against the Miami Dolphins. There is still a good tight end in there, even if he’s no longer capable of another 18-touchdown season.

Just like in the past, injuries are the biggest worry with Gronkowski. The big tight end always had an injury-prone label, but taking a year off should only help his body recover. After all, he’s only 30 and isn’t at the point where his body naturally starts fading. He already passed a physical, so it’s safe to say that there are no long-term effects from his multitude of previous injuries. He might need some time to knock off the rust, but assuming he returns to his old weight, he should be fairly comparable to his 2017 form. Re-watch those games, Gronkowski wasn’t beating anyone with speed. He won by being bigger and stronger than everyone else, and there’s no reason to think that can’t happen again, albeit to a lesser extent.

The Bruce Arians Offense

Anyone that drafted O.J. Howard in 2019 knows that Bruce Arians does not like throwing to tight ends. Howard was one of the biggest busts in fantasy, and one could worry about how he fits in this offense. Fortunately, those concerns should be overblown.

Arians’ tight ends have a long history of fantasy irrelevance, but it’s not because they’re not running routes. According to Pro Football Focus data analysis, Arians actually has his tight ends in the intermediate middle more than the vast majority of other teams. This fits Gronkowski’s skill set perfectly, as he has the highest average depth of target among tight ends over the past five seasons.

Arians doesn’t typically call plays to tight ends, but the quarterback ultimately gets the final say. Brady’s familiarity with Gronkowski will show itself, especially in the early part of the season. Brady, more than perhaps any other quarterback, relies on his receiving options seeing the field in the exact same way he does. Plenty of receivers have ultimately bottomed-out in New England because they simply couldn’t get on the same page as Brady. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are both ridiculously talented, but neither guy has played a snap with Brady. They’re going to need time to develop a rapport with him, and that process will be even harder with COVID-19 shortening the offseason program. Gronkowski should be the primary beneficiary and see a large percentage of the targets, at least early in the season.

Ultimate Projection

The cherry on top is that defenses aren’t going to be able to lock on to Gronkowski. During the vast majority of his time in New England, Gronkowski was clearly the most dangerous option in the passing game. Julian Edelman and Wes Welker were obviously good, but they didn’t demand the type of coverage that a guy like Evans or Godwin do. Gronkowski should see plenty of favorable looks in the valuable part of the field, and Brady should lock in early and often to his longtime teammate.

Ultimately, Gronkowski carries too much risk to be in the same class as George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, Darren Waller, and Zach Ertz. However, he should be in the tier right below that. Considering the lack of tight end receiving talent across the league, one could easily project Gronkowski to have a TE6-8 finish.

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