While Rob Gronkowski has solid physical attributes, he doesn’t appear to jump off the charts among tight ends. Nevertheless, he has no true peers when it comes to receiving numbers, where Gronkowski’s 40 catches, 646 yards and seven touchdowns are far ahead of anybody else. So just what is it that makes the New England Patriots tight end so much better than others at his position?
Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Gronkowski has one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Tom Brady, throwing to him. But even then, it’s not like every receiver that Brady has played with is headed for the Hall of Fame like Gronk.
The 26-year-old is also great at combining size (6’6″), speed (4.68 forty time) and catching ability. However, as alluded to before, there have been tight ends who are even faster and more athletic. So is there an even deeper reason? Perhaps Brady best explained the matter by telling reporters the following:
“Gronk running down the seam, he’s such a big target. I think he’s got a great catch radius. He’s got great speed. I don’t know what he was timed when he came out of college, but he gives great body language when he runs. I can really tell when he really starts to accelerate, and he feels like he can run by the guy that is on him.
“Even the throw I made the other night to him, it wasn’t even really a great throw. But because he was by him so far, he was able to adjust and make it. He makes a tough play on the defender. The guy’s running so hard to catch up, then you throw it a little bit behind Gronk, the guy’s really out of control playing him.”
It seems that the subtleties about Gronk – body language, adjusting, deceptive speed – are what separate him from other skilled tight ends. And then of course, there’s the fact that he rarely ever drops anything that hits his hands. Finally, it’s rare for a tight end to be so good at adjusting for under-thrown balls.
It’s almost hard to believe that Gronk is only in his mid-20s, given that so many players don’t hit their peak until their late 20s. And his numbers are good enough to keep up with any elite NFL receiver. Through seven games, Gronk is currently on pace for 91 catches, 1,477 yards and 16 touchdowns, which would be his best-ever season.
Not coincidentally, the Patriots are also undefeated and looking like the best team in the league right now. Gronkowski has been a huge part of this too and it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see New England win their second straight Super Bowl the way things are going now.