Rob Gronkowski retired yesterday, leaving behind all kinds of debates and questions. Was he the greatest tight end ever? Who will be the Patriots No. 1 tight end next season? How bad will his movie career be?
Others can do the best-ever debate; I'm old, but not old enough to have seen some of the old-time guys. I'm surprised to see that there are only nine tight ends in the Hall of Fame. Gronkowski will almost certainly be a first-ballot guy. Wherever you want to rank him, it's a very select group.
What we can say for sure is that he's the most productive tight end of the past decade, statistically. Since he entered the league back in 2010, only two tight ends caught more passes than he did: Jason Witten and Jimmy Graham. But Gronkowski, even with a couple of seasons largely lost due to injury, racked up more than 400 more yards than any other player.
Even more impressively, and this is what sets him apart as a fantasy tight end, Gronk was an incredible scorer. His 80 TDs over the past nine years is 9 more than Graham in that time frame, 23 more than Antonio Gates, and roughly twice as many as every other tight end. Talk about a difference-maker.
|TIGHT END PRODUCTION, 2010-2018 (TOP-40)|
As for who will replace him, there was a story over the weekend that New England pushed to sign Jared Cook (who, incidentally, has not officially put ink to paper for the Saints....hmmm). Cook in New England would be about as intriguing as Cook in New Orleans, arguably more so.
Regardless, I don't think the team's No. 1 tight end next year is currently on their roster. (Tight ends on the roster: Stephen Anderson, Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse.) Good thing the NFL Draft is well stocked with talented young tight ends, highlighted by Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson and Irv Smith Jr. -- son of the former Saint star. New England is stocked with early picks, including a first-rounder, two second-rounders and three third-rounders. If they want to select one of those top guys, they have more than enough ammunition to go get him.
Gronk is gone, but New England might have a top-10 fantasy tight end next year anyway.
EDIT: Since some asked, here are the per-game numbers for tight ends over the span shown above, 2010-2018. I cropped the list at tight ends who'd appeared in at least 40 games.
|TIGHT END PER-GAME NUMBERS, 2010-2018|