Does Rob Gronkowski have anything left to offer fantasy owners?

Fantasy Football, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rob Gronkowski is coming back to reunite with Tom Brady, but is he automatically back among the top tier of fantasy tight ends?

When we last saw Rob Gronkowski, in 2018, he was clearly less than he had been on his way to 47 receptions for 682 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games. He was still a starting caliber fantasy tight end though, coming in as TE11 in standard scoring and full-point PPR.

From 2010-2017, Gronkowski was a top-five fantasy tight end in all six seasons he played at least 11 games in that span. He was the No. 1 fantasy tight end in standard scoring in four of those seasons, and he often lapped the field when he held that post.

In 2014, Gronkowski was the No. 1 tight end in standard fantasy scoring by 30.3 points over No. 2 Antonio Gates. That was almost the same as the gap between Gates and TE6 Coby Fleener.

In 2015 it was much the same, as Gronkowski led all other tight ends by 25.3 points in standard scoring (No. 2 was Gary Barnidge). The same gap down from Barnidge would have put that hypothetical tight end at TE7.

For years, Gronkowski was the poster boy for a certain fantasy draft strategy. If you didn’t take him early or devote the auction dollars to get him, waiting to get a tight end was the easy (and arguably better) plan.

As players like Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz surfaced, the gap between Gronkowski and the rest of the crop of fantasy tight ends closed. A factor for Gronkowski now is he has been off the field for a year, but there is a recent example to cite.

After a much-derided year in the Monday Night Football booth, tight end Jason Witten returned to action with the Dallas Cowboys last year. He played all 16 games, with a 75 percent snap share, and totaled 63 receptions (on 83 targets) for 529 yards and four touchdowns. In a fantasy context, he finished as TE12 in standard scoring and TE11 in full-point PPR.

In recent years, since such things have been tabulated, Gronkowski’s snap rates in New England fell within the range of 75-85 percent over seasons he was mostly healthy. He is also turning 31 years old soon, whereas Witten was 37 last season when he returned to action.

Ideally, the Buccaneers will open up significant snaps for Gronkowski by trading one of their incumbent tight ends. O.J. Howard is rumored to be available, though if all things were equal parting with Cameron Brate might be preferable for Tampa Bay.

With all of that, here’s an early projection for Gronkowski in 2020.

55 receptions for 795 yards (14.5 yards per catch) and 6 touchdowns

In standard scoring leagues, that’s 115.5 fantasy points and it would have put Gronkowski at TE8 in 2019. In full PPR, that projection would’ve been TE7 last year.

Health will be a factor with Gronkowski, even after a year out to theoretically heal. But he is instantly back on the TE1 radar for fantasy owners this year, with the caveat of where his ADP winds up and if it’s palatable in any risk-reward equation.

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