The strangest offseason in NFL history continued to get even more interesting. Rob Gronkowski will be returning to the NFL after a year of retirement and will do so with Tom Brady for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs and New England Patriots agreed on a deal that sent Gronk and a seventh-round pick in exchange for a fourth-rounder.
Arguably the greatest tight end in fantasy football history, Gronkowski recorded double-digit touchdowns in five seasons and topped 1,000 receiving yards three times. Of course, he was also no stranger to injury, as Gronk missed 39 games over his final seven seasons in the league. That injury history isn’t made any better by the fact that he’ll be 31 years old when the season starts.
[Editor's Note: Find the full collection of analysis and insights on PFF's 2020 fantasy football projections for all 32 NFL teams.]
In Tampa Bay, Gronk steps into a loaded depth chart that already features two of the league’s top pass catchers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Bucs also have perennial fantasy breakout candidate O.J. Howard at tight end. In terms of Evans and Godwin, Gronk’s presence isn’t a major downgrade. Both players are still going to eat and remain top-10 options in our updated fantasy football projections.
As for Howard, well, this news isn’t good. Gronkowski will almost certainly dominate the tight end target share in addition to taking shares off the plate of Scotty Miller, or whoever earns the No. 3 receiver job. While there’s widespread speculation that the Bucs could trade Howard in the coming days, there are also reports floating around that suggest Tampa will keep him. That route certainly wouldn’t be good for his short-term fantasy value, but the thought of those two on the field in 12-personnel is very intriguing.
It’s easy to fall in love with the idea of Brady to Gronk for fantasy purposes, but we have to remember that it’s 2020 and not 2013. Both players are now elder statesmen in the league, and Gronk’s injury history should not be understated. That being said, there’s enough meat on the bone here to move Gronk up into the TE1 conversation. Tentatively, he comes in at an ambitious TE6 in our fantasy football rankings, but that’s assuming he plays all 16 games. Discounting two games would move him down to the edge of the top-10, and just inside the top 15 if you have him missing four games.