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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fantasy football: Would you take Rob Gronkowski in the first round in 2012?

ESPN fantasy analyst Matthew Berry started an interesting debate Tuesday when he ranked Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski ninth overall in his early top 100 for 2012.

A tight end in the top 10?

Even during Antonio Gates' back-to-back boom seasons of 2004 and '05, he was a fourth-round pick in fantasy. In those two years, Gates had a combined 170 catches for 2,065 yards and 23 touchdowns in 30 games.

This season, Gronk was much better. Ninety receptions for 1,327 yards. Seventeen receiving touchdowns (and 18 overall) -- the most ever for a tight end.

Berry's ranking, and the cyber-arguing that ensued, compelled me to look up Tony Gonzalez's numbers during his time as a stud with the Chiefs.

In 2000, Gonzalez posted similar numbers to Gronkowski in receptions (93) and yards (1,203), but he reached the end zone nine times. In 2004, he had 102 catches for 1,258 yards -- and seven TDs. In 2007 and '08, he had norms of 98 receptions for 1,115 yards, but he scored only five and 10 times, respectively.

Again, no comparison to the Gronk. Maybe the latter really is that good.

Here's my problem with taking a tight end in the top 10 of a draft:

OK, two problems: 1. There is no guarantee Gronkowski will come close to those numbers in 2012, especially in TDs -- the area in which he truly separated himself from past versions of Gates and Gonzalez. 2. He has a very good teammate who plays the same position, Aaron Hernandez, who was among the top three or four tight ends in fantasy in 2011.

Yes, the Patriots will throw it enough to make both Gronkowski and Hernandez happy, especially since the tight ends are their best options aside from wide receiver Wes Welker.

But if you're going to take a tight end that high, he better be as good as Gronkowski -- and the Saints' Jimmy Graham -- were in 2011.

I also understand the argument that there is a bigger difference between the top two tight ends -- Gronk and Graham -- and the rest of the position than there is at other positions.

I still can't shake this thought, though: If you take a tight end in the first round, you might be left scrambling at running back and/or wide receiver in the latter rounds.

You could get lucky -- see Jackson, Fred; Bush, Reggie; Cruz, Victor; Nelson, Jordy; or several other examples.

Or you could get the Felix Jones-Jonathan Stewart, no-playoffs platter.

Maybe I'm old school, but I'd rather take my chances at tight end with the likes of Jermichael Finley, Jason Witten, Brandon Pettigrew, Gates or Vernon Davis later in the draft, after I select a stud quarterback and, hopefully, a very good running back and receiver.

If you take Gronkowski in the top 10, you can still get a very good back or receiver early in Round 2. And you'll be left to hope you hit a couple of home runs in Rounds 3, 4 and/or 5.

It was the Year of the Quarterback.

Will 2012 be the Year a Tight End Makes the First Round?

My guess is no.

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April 25, 2012 at 4:00 AM 

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