I know I shouldn’t respond to a league’s Ministry of Truth putting out a meaningless list during the dead period of their offseason just to fill programming. And start arguments. I know I should just leave it alone, keep moving and be on my way. But I can’t.
When the list is as nonsensical as NFL Network’s Top 100 Players of 2018 countdown and they are stupid enough to put Rob Gronkowski 15th, they leave me no choice but to to respond. On cable, they’re the law. Out here, it’s me. Don’t push it. Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. They’re dealing with an expert. A man who’s the best. With statistics. Advanced stats. Rankings. Scouting reports. My bare hands. A man who’s been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land. To eat things that will make a billy goat puke. To win an argument by attrition.
For starters, we’ve seen the entirety of the list now except for the Top 10. So who do we know for sure they’ve got ahead of Gronk?
11. Russell Wilson
12. Luke Kuechley
13. DeAndre Hopkins
14. Calais Campbell
Good players, all. There’s not a guy here who can’t play for my team any day of the week and twice on Sunday. And not one of them the best as his position. Not even Kuechley. Not any more. Not post-concussion Kuechley, who’s staged a ballsy comeback but in 15 games had just three more tackles (74) than his career low in only 10 games the year before. He may yet become the best in the game again, but no one can argue he’s anywhere near the top of the league right now.
Whereas no would argue that Gronk isn’t the best tight end in football. And it’s not even close. He’s lapped the field. In the five drafts from 2013-17, there have been 16 tight ends taken in the top two rounds, including three in the first round of 2017. And so far, not one has threatened Gronkowski’s place at the top of the TE pyramid. Not a healthy Gronk anyway. Which is was in 2017, leading the league in snaps at the position with 1,078.
Simply put, there’s just no other person walking the Earth right now capable of doing the things Gronk can. Like the video points out, he lead the league in Receiving Yards by a tight end. But he was also the only non-wide receiver to crack the top ten. In Yards per Reception, he was 12th. And Carolina’s Ed Dickson (23rd) is the only other full time TE (Vernon Davis and Hunter Henry played other positions) in the top 45.
And as the video also points out, he’s also among the best blockers in football, both in the running game and pass protection. By way of comparison, Pro Football Focus graded Gronk as the top receiving tight end in 2017, followed by, in order, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Hunter Henry, Delanie Walker and Greg Olsen. Those five also graded:
Gronk was No. 2.
17. (tie) Henry and Walker
Gronk was No. 2 here as well.
And as far as how the best blocking tight ends did in the pass game, I won’t make you swallow your tongue by splitting them up into run blockers and pass protectors. I’ll just take the guys who rated up there with Gronkowski in both categories and where they ranked catching passes:
13. David Morgan
31. Marcedes Lewis
32. Ed Dickson
43. Michael Hoomanawanui
52. Virgil Green
??. Dwayne Allen. (I didn’t bother to scroll down because by midseason we put out Amber Alerts to find him.)
To repeat, Gronk was No. 1.
So Rob Gronkowski, a man who far and away outranks all his peers at the most versatile position in the sport, requiring a decathlon of skill sets including size, speed, strength, power, hands and agility and who was the second most important player on a Super Bowl team, can’t crack the Top 10 on a list supposedly compiled by informed football minds. Got it. Either football punditry is dead or they’re just intentionally starting fights now. Regardless, if they’re going to start it, I’m going to finish it.
P.S. It could just be that for some reason, this is how little people in football think of the tight end position. And wrong though they may be, if I’m the Patriots, I’m using this in negotiations when the Gronkowskis argue he should be paid like a wide receiver.