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Was Drafting Rob Gronkowski in the First Round Bad Process or Just Bad Results?

Tight end is probably the most divisive position in all of fantasy football. You're either firmly in the camp of waiting during drafts, snagging one or two of the late round fliers, or you want one of the top-five guys to solidify a spot on your roster. Whatever your go-to strategy is, one thing has remained steadfast among all fantasy owners - Rob Gronkowski is the first tight end off the board.

It doesn't matter which camp you set up shop in, Gronk has always been the No. 1 tight end in fantasy. Granted, that window is closing thanks to the likes of Jordan Reed and Travis Kelce, but we'll get to that at the end of this discussion. For now, let's just focus on 2016. You may have already read about a similar debate regarding Ezekiel Elliott, examining whether drafting such a player was a good strategy or strictly dependent on results.

I won't spoil the Zeke piece, although you can read it here when you're done. I can give you a bit of a tease on Gronk before we get started. It may be scary to think that Rob Gronkowski can make or break your team, but drafting a tight end early is not, by any means, a bad strategy.


Drafting Gronk in 2016: Bad Luck or Bad Idea?

Let's get the bad news out of the way first. Everybody knows that Gronk is injury-prone and he only played eight games last year as a result. Nevertheless, people still draft him early and often and with good reason. The most overlooked part of his stat line, though, is the fact that he played in 15 games the two previous years. The last time he missed as many as eight games was in 2013. So we're talking about a long gap between "injured" years. I'm not going to bore you with a long list of Gronk stats since there's a good chance you're already aware of just how awesome he can be. Instead, does an average of nine touchdowns a season catch your attention? That average includes a total of 24 missed games. Point is, Gronk is an absolute stud whenever he's on the field.

Which brings us back to whether or not it's good strategy to snag him at the end of round one/beginning of round two. His ADP (per ESPN) was 11th in fantasy drafts for 2016 so that's the exact spot we're talking about. In taking a look at who else went around the same spot as him, could I interest you in DeAndre Hopkins? What about Allen Robinson? Cam Newton? Think you would have taken Gronk later? Ok, how about Doug Martin? Brandon Marshall? Eddie Lacy? We haven't even hit round three yet in 12-team leagues.

I know not everyone will remember just how bad those picks ended up being based on their fantasy stats. But what I can tell you in short form is that none of those players lived up to their ADP. In fact, none of them came close. So what does that tell us about Rob Gronkowski? It tells us that he isn't any more or less risky than the players being drafted around him. Sure, he has recurring injury woes, we can't dispute that. Guess what? Every other position has injury woes. It just so happens that we're talking about the best tight end in football. When he's on the field, he can win you a week all by himself. It's a huge advantage that can't be understated.

Considering that there are really only five-or-six tight ends that you can rely on for fantasy purposes, owning one of them is a sound strategy. Position scarcity is real. There are only two mindsets on both tight end and quarterback; you either grab one early or you wait until the end. Snagging one in the middle won't do you any favors. I prefer to lean toward the early side for TE and wait on QB. Picking Gronk early is still very much a good process. It just so happened to not work out in 2016. Riddle me this: was taking Todd Gurley in the middle of round one a bad strategy? Of course not. Neither was owning DeAndre Hopkins or Allen Robinson. We can't predict the future. All we can do is put ourselves in the best position to win and owning Rob Gronkowski does exactly that.

All of that said, remember when I mentioned that his window is closing? Well, in looking ahead to 2017, the gap between Gronk and the next couple of tight ends is much, much smaller than it was before. I would actually considering taking both Travis Kelce and Jordan Reed ahead of him in the upcoming season. It's pretty early to get into draft strategy for 2017 but the philosophy remains the same. Owning a top flight tight end is a great way to put yourself in position to win a fantasy league.