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Disaster Recovery Week 8: Robbed of Gronk

Welcome to Disaster Recovery, where each week I'll examine why your studs played like duds.

This isn't a place to find out why you should have benched a player for somebody on your bench. Disaster Recovery is to examine the guys who you didn't think twice about benching, and deciding if you should be panicking at all about their value moving forward.

This season we'll be covering one dud per week. There will be two major qualifiers: the player must have performed well below expectations without an injury, and the player must be considered a must-start in most formats.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!


Rankings System

I'll also be implementing a new panic meter ranking system this year. It goes as follows:

  1. This week was a fluke. Don't panic!
  2. I still have full faith in this player, but there are some red flags. Be cautiously optimistic moving forward.
  3. There are genuine concerns here. Consider selling on name value, but don't panic too much unless you receive an offer you can't refuse.
  4. This player will not be the player you expected him to be. Regardless, his value may be too low to trade, and his ceiling is going to be better than anything you can get in return. Panic, but hold tight.
  5. Absolutely abandon ship. We're not coming back from this.

Week 8's player is someone who has been one of the most reliable fantasy players when healthy over the past decade: Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski.


Just Gronk Me Up Fam

Rob Gronkowski's Week 8 stat-line: three receptions for 43 yards on eight targets.

Sharing the Sugar

This was Gronk's first game back after missing last week with an injury, but his snap count would indicate he was fine to play. The Patriots used him on 84% of offensive snaps in this game.

Gronk's poor performance in this match was largely in part to the Patriots spreading the ball around. Five different receivers had over 40 yards, with four of them having over six targets. James White and Julian Edelman carried the bulk of the load for the Patriots passing attack in this game. Gronk just fell victim to a numbers game. Nothing to worry about, right? ...right?

The Drought Continues

Just three minutes and ten seconds into the Patriots opening game of the season, Tom Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski on a 21-yard touchdown pass. It was the team's first score of the season. For Gronk owners, it just felt like another day at the office for him, and we could expect many more to come between Brady and his favorite weapon.

Except Gronk hasn't scored since.

Gronk's overall receiving numbers aren't bad. He's on pace for 56 receptions for 896 yards over 14 games. Not the best yardage total of his career, but certainly fine. The problem is that we've always relied on Gronk for his touchdown upside. He usually scores a lot of touchdowns. He's on pace to score just twice this season. Even in 2013, where Gronk played just seven games all year, he still managed to find the end zone four times.

The bigger concern is that Gronk has been a complete afterthought in the red zone. Tom Brady has thrown 41 passes in the red zone this season. Just two of them have gone Gronk's way, and he didn't catch either one. He had 11 receptions on 22 targets and six touchdowns in the red zone last season.

It's not like the Patriots have had trouble scoring this year. Tom Brady has thrown 16 touchdowns and the Patriots are fourth in points per game this year, only trailing the Rams, Saints, and Chiefs. Brady has been sharing the wealth on his passing touchdowns this year. While James White has hauled in six of them, nobody else has more than two. Gronk couldn't even be one of the four Patriots to have two receiving touchdowns this year. He's scored less than Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson.


(Not) Robbin Season

Still an elite TE1?

Rob Gronkowski currently ranks as the TE8* in half-PPR points per game this year. He's behind players like OJ Howard and Trey Burton. We drafted Gronk expecting him to be in the same tier as Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce, but he's barely in the same tier as Jared Cook, and even that's debatable. Halfway through the season, we can't call Gronk an elite TE1. We just can't

Panic Meter: 3/5

Here's the thing about Gronk: he plays tight end. His value as a fantasy asset has been so high because he was such an advantage over the other tight ends in the league. It's a historically weak position that's having a historically weak year. Gronk is still a must-start and likely will be for the remainder of the season. He's top 10 at his position in the worst year of his career.

We talked about a similar issue with David Johnson last week in that these guys aren't going to live up to their ADP. Unless Gronk finds the end zone in every game for the rest of the season, which is legitimately possible, he's not going to come close to being the overall TE1 like many expected him to be. You just have to hope things get better.

And like Johnson, things haven't been that bad. He scored double-digit points in non-standard leagues in back-to-back weeks before the injury. Don't be concerned about having him in your starting lineup. His ceiling is still higher than most tight ends in the league, even if he may not get there often.

That being said... if somebody wants to buy Gronk, you should consider selling. I'd try and move Gronk for a quality RB2 or WR2 and somebody like Burton, Howard, or Austin Hooper, especially in 8-10 team leagues where teams are a bit deeper. Gronk doesn't have the advantage over everyone else at the position as he did in the past. An owner who has one of the low-end TE1's and a deep roster otherwise would likely trade somebody playing better than Gronk for Gronk. I wouldn't recommend actively shopping Gronk, but there might be better offers out there than you'd expect.

What To Watch For

Touchdown! Red zone targets! It's insane that Gronk hasn't scored more than one time this season. See if the Patriots even look Gronk's way near the end zone. It simply needs to happen at some point this year. I still believe he's the most dangerous player on this Patriot offense.

*I didn't count Ed Dickson, who has only played in one game this year. It doesn't make me feel good that he has two receptions and just as many touchdowns as Gronk. 

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