Don’t draft Gronk? Before we go any further, I want to put it on the record that Rob Gronkowski is one of my favorite players currently in the NFL. What’s not to like? The guy has great touchdown celebration dances, does a good amount of charity work and poses with porn stars wearing his jersey. But I sincerely doubt that Gronkowski will be on any of my fantasy teams this coming season. Here’s why you should think long and hard before you draft him.
I understand why almost everyone I talk to disagrees with me. Gronkowski is the first ever TE to have three consecutive seasons with double digit TDs. He is Tom Brady’s go-to red zone target, and the New England Patriots are a completely different team offensively with him on the field than without him. Gronkowski put up WR1 numbers in 2011, becoming the first TE in history to lead the league with receiving TDs and finishing the season as the 15th-highest scoring fantasy player overall.
He’s only 24 years old and still has six years on his contract. But while he could once again put up Calvin Johnson-esque numbers in the 2014 season, I’m not targeting him in the draft because he is quite possibly the biggest high-risk, high-reward player in fantasy football right now.
Gronkowski suffered a high ankle sprain during the 2011 AFC championship game and underwent surgery on the ankle after the 2011 season. Then Gronkowski broke his left forearm in Week 11 of the 2012 season, and he has since had four surgeries on that arm. And then last June, he underwent back surgery, causing him to miss the first six games of the 2013 season.
But from Week 9 to Week 13 last year, it looked like the Gronk was back. In a four-game streak, he averaged over 100 yards and had a TD every week. But just a game later in Week 14, he tore his right ACL and MCL, ending his season. Gronkowski underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL this past January.
If you haven’t been keeping count, I’ll make it easy for you. That’s seven surgeries in a span of less than three years. I don’t care who you are. All of those surgeries add up and take a big toll on your health.
For what it’s worth, all reports seem to indicate that Gronkowski’s knee is healing well after the surgery. But the Patriots have shown that they won’t rush him back needlessly, as they waited six games at the start of last season for him to fully recover. To add to the uncertainty, head coach Bill Belichick is famously tight-lipped about when a player will return from injury and whether or not he will play in any given week.
Right now, Gronkowski is being drafted on average in the fourth round. For that price, you could be getting very cheap WR1-like production with 1,200 yards and 10 TDs if he plays in all 16 games this season. But what if his knee isn’t healed by the start of the season? Even if he only misses a few games due to his knee, what if his arm or back acts up again? Or what if he breaks something else nine games into the season?
If you want to gamble on Gronkowski in 2014, it could pay off and win you a championship. Just remember the other end of the spectrum. Personally, the risk of only playing a few games is just too high for me. My vote on Gronk is “no”, but do what you have to do.