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Is Rob Gronkowski Playing This Year? Will Kyle Rudolph Replace Gronk?

rob gronkowski fantasy football rankings NFL DFS lineup picks

He’s still filming USAA commercials. His agent says he thinks he might come back during the season. Skip Bayless agrees.

Fantasy football managers would like for Rob Gronkowski to return – if not now, at least in time for the fantasy playoffs.

For a while, he was a trendy late-round pick in best-ball formats, but now he has dropped from an ADP of 113 to 215 on Underdog in the past month. If he does return, Gronk would be a great value pick! But will he?

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Rob Gronkowski's Fantasy Football Background

Gronkowski is likely to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He has accumulated the third-most touchdown catches by a tight end in history and has the fifth-most yards. He initially retired after the 2018 season, but he returned to TE1 status after joining quarterback Tom Brady in Tampa Bay in 2020.

He scored seven TDs in his first year back, although his targets and receptions were down from his peak. In 2021, he scored six TDs and increased his target numbers. He finished as the TE5 in standard scoring despite missing four games, and he was the TE3 in average points per game.

He was an unrestricted free agent following last season, and many had speculated that his future would be tied to that of his friend and long-time teammate, Tom Brady. When Brady unretired, most folks figured Gronk would accompany him on his quest for another ring.

 

How Did Rob Gronkowski Handle Tom Brady's Return?

When Brady ended his 40-day retirement, it was reported that the Buccaneers would try to get Gronk to re-sign, too. Some analysts were "certain" that he would reunite with Brady.

Mike Moraitis of Titans Wire wrote,

The veteran tight end, who came out of retirement in 2020 just to team up with his buddy, Brady, will almost assuredly want to reunite with him once again, taking Gronk off the board in free agency.

Brady wanted him to come back. In late April, Gronk said he hadn't made up his mind.

Finally, on June 21, Gronk announced his decision: he was done. He has spent much of July trying to convince us he's 100 percent sure, saying he's not coming back, even if Brady gives him a call.

At this point, nothing will convince some that he won't eventually unretire for a second time.

 

Will Kyle Rudolph Take Over Rob Gronkowski's Role?

With Rob Gronkowski retired and O.J. Howard signing with the Bills in the offseason, the Bucs signed former Viking Kyle Rudolph. While Rudolph caught 50 or more passes in three straight seasons from 2016 to 2018, he only caught 26 passes for 257 yards and one TD last season with the Giants. The move suggests the Bucs believe Gronkowski is sincere in his desire to stay retired.

The Bucs also signed future Hall of Fame receiver Julio Jones. While this move seems more related to addressing depth at the receiver position with Chris Godwin (knee) recovering from a torn ACL, the absence of Gronkowski is a significant factor for Tampa Bay's passing game heading into the 2022 season.

 

Who Will Benefit More If Gronk Stays Retired, Kyle Rudolph Or Cameron Brate?

Rudolph's signing certainly isn't great news for Brate, who had 30 receptions for 245 yards and four touchdowns on 57 targets in 17 regular season games (three starts) while sharing the field with Gronkowski in 2021. Brate has the edge based on familiarity and chemistry with Brady after playing with him the last two seasons.

On the flip side, the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud suggests that Rudolph will inherit most of Gronkowski's workload.

Either way, the Bucs need to replace Gronk's 55-802-6 line from a season ago, and both Rudolph and Brate give Brady experienced, big-bodied receivers at the position, especially in the red zone.

If both tight ends stay healthy in 2022, Brate should be the one to benefit the most if Gronkowski actually stays retired. Of the 31-year-old's 57 targets in 2021, 19 of them came in the red zone, and he's scored at least six TDs three times in his career.



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