Since the end of the Patriots' season, I have talked a lot about all the players on both sides of the football that surprised and disappointed me. Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, Tom Brady, Malcolm Butler, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, etc. (need I go on?) all played much better than everyone thought going into the season.
The same can be said for All-World tight end Rob Gronkowski. Coming off his first fully healthy season in quite some time, expectations were mixed for Gronk. Some thought he may succumb to a serious injury like in seasons past, while others thought this could be a turning point in the young man's career.
Spoiler Alert: It was the latter.
Gronk had a monster season, earning a Pro Bowl nomination (that he declined), while turning in 72 receptions, 1,176 yards and 11 TDs on the year. Mind you, Gronk missed a Week 13 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles with an apparent knee injury, so he really only played 15 regular season games.
After another monster regular and postseason, Gronk has already propelled himself into the question as to if he is the greatest tight end to ever play the game.
Statistically, even at the age of 26, Gronk has already surpassed most of his predecessors. Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Shannon Sharpe, Mike Ditka and John Mackey are considered some of the greatest tight ends of all time, but do their numbers really match up with Gronk's stats?
I won't bore you with numbers, but Gronk already has the most postseason touchdowns of all time, while ranking 3rd in regular season TDs with 65. He only trails Tony Gonzalez(111) and Antonio Gates(104).
Rob Gronkowski is smashing tight ends records at a historic pace, as he has only been in the league for 6 (!!!) seasons. Is he the greatest tight end ever, yet? Probably not. However, it is only a matter of time, if he can stay healthy.
It will take a few seasons for Gronk to catch up to Tony Gonzalez touchdown or reception records, but if Gronk keeps a level head, the conversation is over.
By Pete Packowski