Rob Gronkowski: Greatest Tight End to Ever Play
On March 24th, 2019, following another Super Bowl-winning season, Rob Gronkowski finally decided to call it quits. Through nine NFL seasons, Gronkowski has been the most dominant tight end in the league. Whether blocking or running routes, Gronk has been the best. Now that he is officially retired, it is time to review his status as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) tight end and Hall of Fame player with these ten stats.
The Gronk Stats
Gronk-Stat No. 1: 133.52
Since 2000, Rob Gronkowski has the highest recorded Total NEP (Net Expected Points recorded by numberFire) for a tight end season. His 2011 season was unworldly. In fact, Gronkowski has four of the thirteen highest totals at the position since 2000. As a receiving weapon, Gronk was a major contributor for his team. His ceiling and dominance as a player was unmatched.
Stat No. 2: 535.89
When we compare Rob Gronkowski to other pinnacle NFL tight ends like Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham, Gronkowski’s efficiency stands out even more. Compile each of their top-five seasons in Total NEP and you get a chart that looks like this:
|Seasons||Games||Total NEP||NEP per Game|
|Rob Gronkowski||2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017||71||535.89||7.55|
|Antonio Gates||2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2014||78||511.29||6.55|
|Tony Gonzalez||2000, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2012||80||514.7||6.43|
|Jimmy Graham||2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016||79||463.01||5.86|
What is incredible is that Gronk compiled more NEP than all of the others in only 71 games. He averaged an entire point more per game than the next man up, Antonio Gates. Gates, Gonzalez and many other tight ends may have given us longevity. But Rob Gronkowski provided more for his team on a per-game basis than any other tight end. When he was on the field, he changed the game.
Stat No. 3: 88.7
Per PFF grading, Rob Gronkowski has a career run-blocking grade of 88.7. He also holds a career pass-blocking grade of 72.6. Gronkowski was “one of the few modern-day tight ends that [was] as formidable as a run-block as he [was] a receiving weapon”. At the NFL Combine, the University of Arizona product had the following measurements:
- 6-foot 6-inches
- 264 pounds
- 10 ¾-inch hands
- 34 ¼-inch arm length
As a blocker, Gronk used every inch and pound he had. Utilizing his 88th-percentile arm length, large frame and 84th-percentile Speed Score, Rob Gronkowski was an impressive blocker. He was “a monster” on the field, according to New England Patriots’ teammate Rex Burkhead. Jason McCourty called him “a beast” and Tom Brady referred to Gronkowski as one of “the most dominant blocking tight ends in the league.”
Stat No. 4: +0.6
When it comes to scoring touchdowns, not even the Patriots could match Gronk’s prowess. When Rob Gronkowski was out of the lineup, the Patriots scored 0.6 less touchdowns per game. As Mike Clay’s numbers show, Gronkowski’s impact extended to more completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, overall touchdowns, completion percentage and yards per attempt. All that with less pass attempts per game. Gronk made the entire Patriots offense more efficient whenever he was in the game. Of note, the 7.0 YPA would have ranked 22nd in the NFL over that time span, while 7.9 YPA would have ranked 1st. Gronkowski’s impact on an already prolific offense is unbelievable.
Stat No. 5: 5
In the NFL’s history, a tight end has recorded a ten-plus touchdown season only 38 times. Tony Gonzalez owns two of those seasons. Antonio Gates has three. Jimmy Graham notched an impressive four. However, Gronk sits atop at his position with five. Rob Gronkowski was a touchdown machine. His spikes were a regular occurrence when he was active. In fact, Gronkowski turned 10.4-percent of his targets from Tom Brady into touchdowns. Unreal.
Stat No. 6: 9.9
Rob Gronkowski retires as the all-time leader among TEs in…— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) March 24, 2019
• Yards per game (68.3)
• TDs per game (0.69)
• Yards per target (9.9 – since 1992)
Gronk also ranks 8th-best in receptions per game (4.5) and 4th-best in YPR (15.1).
As Graham Barfield noted on Twitter, Rob Gronkowski’s efficiency was better than any other tight end in yards, touchdowns and yards per target (since 1992). While Gronk was adept at catching first downs, making diving catches or securing the football in the endzone, he was also a YAC (yards after the catch) monster. Gronkowski compiled YAC with stiff arms, broken tackles, spins or just outrunning the defense. As seen in this 79-yard catch and run, The colossal tight end made NFL secondaries look like featherweights.
Stat No. 7: 90.2
Through his nine-season career, Rob Gronkowski graced the NFL with 16 playoff games. Accumulating his PFF grades for each of those games results in a PFF grade of 90.2. Per Sam Monson at PFF, this grade would have ranked number-one overall in 2018 for tight ends. It would rank top-ten among all tight end seasons PFF has graded. Gronk already was listed on PFF’s Top 101 six separate times for his regular season performances, but in the playoffs he exceeded the highest expectations. Everyone talks about Playoff Edelman, but Playoff Gronkowski was on another level.
Stat No. 8: 330.9
In 2011, Rob Gronkowski put together the greatest single-season for a tight end. 90 receptions, 1,327 receiving yards, and 18 total touchdowns. His 330.9 PPR Points are the most ever scored by a tight end. Gronkowski’s career 15.52 PPR (Points Per Game) would also rank first all-time for tight ends.
Stat No. 9: 13.9
See you in Canton, Rob Gronkowski.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 25, 2019
A tribute, to an all-time great as told by our @PFF_Chichesterhttps://t.co/iG3tB7Vy3i pic.twitter.com/lfOCZVFNuV
As PFF’s Twitter account mentioned, Rob Gronkowski ranks higher than tight end Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez, and Antonio Gates. Yet again, Gronkowski puts distance between himself and other tight end legends.
Stat No. 10: 129.6
When Tom Brady targeted Rob Gronkowski, he had a passer rating of 129.6. Through nine seasons, holding a passer rating that high is remarkable. Brady and Gronkowski turned 753 attempts into:
- 516 Receptions
- 7,786 yards
- 78 Touchdowns
- 13 Interceptions
Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady were the best quarterback to receiver duo in the 21st-century.
Rob Gronkowski is a First-Ballot Hall of Famer and the GOAT Tight End
The sheer dominance that Rob Gronkowski possessed when he played football is unlike any other. With that being said, there are still doubters that Gronkowski is the greatest tight end. One argument against him is that he was plagued with injuries. However, his injuries should be an argument for his greatness. Gronkowski overcame a forearm fracture, multiple herniated discs, a torn ACL and MCL, in addition to other back, ankle, thigh, knee, hamstring, hip and lung injuries. If he didn’t have those injuries, Gronkowski would have made his 2011 season a regular occurrence. Nevertheless, he still managed to create an NFL resume that is the best of all time for tight ends.
Another criticism of Gronkowski is his shorter NFL career. Gronkowski only played nine seasons, whereas Tony Gonzalez had 17 seasons and Shannon Sharpe played for 14 years. Antonio Gates just played in his 16th season and Jason Witten will have his 16th in 2019. Admitted, Gronkowski’s career doesn’t have the longevity of others. But Barry Sanders also retired early, after just ten seasons played. That didn’t stop him from being a first ballot Hall of Famer. Neither should Gronkowski’s nine season.
Bottom line, Rob Gronkowski is without a doubt the GOAT tight end and should be an easy first-ballot Hall of Fame vote.