March 25, 2019

SOMEBODY HAS TO CARRY BRADY:

Gronk Was The Most Efficient Receiver We've Seen: Yes, receiver -- not just among tight ends. (Neil Paine and Michael Salfino, 3/24/19, 538)

On a per-16-game basis, the average Gronk campaign would consist of 72 catches, 1,094 yards and 11 touchdowns -- numbers that would rank among the top 25 tight end seasons in history. And Gronkowski sustained that pace for nine seasons.

Those numbers are only scratching the surface in terms of how valuable Gronk was to Tom Brady and the Patriots over the years. On a per-target basis, Gronkowksi picked up 9.9 yards -- basically an entire first down every time the ball was thrown in his direction -- according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. Since 1992 (the first season for target data on PFR), that's the best of any receiver -- wideout or tight end -- in the NFL.

Remember longtime Vikings WR Cris Carter's old reputation -- "all he does is catch touchdowns"? For Gronkowski, that was closer to being true than for any player of his generation -- and it was a very good thing for the Patriots. With 521 career receptions and 79 career touchdown grabs, Gronk hauled in a TD once every 6.6 catches. Only eight players in NFL history with a minimum of 400 lifetime receptions -- Don Hutson, Paul Warfield, Tommy McDonald, Art Powell, Jimmy Orr, Wesley Walker, Randy Moss and Lance Alworth -- caught touchdowns as a greater share of their total catches than Gronkowski did.

With those rates of great things happening whenever he was involved in the play, it's easy to make a case that Gronkowski was the most efficient receiver (of any type) in NFL history. What's more, Gronkowski consistently made his teammates more efficient, too.

When our colleague Kyle Wagner looked at Gronk's impact during the 2017-18 playoffs, he found that Brady's passing efficiency numbers were significantly higher when his favorite tight end was on the field than not, one of the big ways Gronkowski has been a secret weapon for the Pats during the latter phase of their record-smashing dynasty. Since Gronk's debut in 2010, Brady's passer rating when targeting Gronkowski is 124.7, but it was just 96.8 when throwing to any other receiver. Even when it came to the greatest quarterback of all time, Gronkowski found a way to make him look much better.

And then there was Gronkowski's effect as a blocker. He frequently graded out as the best blocking tight end in the game, according to ProFootballFocus.com's ratings. This aspect of his game made Gronk an asset whether the play call was a pass or run -- keeping the Patriots from having to sub him in and out depending on the situation, or having his presence tip the Pats' hand on which type of play was coming. No matter what Gronkowski was asked to do, he generated a mismatch with the defense.

Posted by at March 25, 2019 12:00 AM

  

« OVER EARLY: | Main | WHAT MUELLER LEFT TO CONGRESS: »