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Fantasy implications of Rob Gronkowski trade to Bucs

The Bucs are bringing Tom Brady’s running mate to town. We break down the fantasy football implications of the Rob Gronkowski unretirement and trade.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady celebrates a touchdown with tight end Rob Gronkowski against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a splash at the start of free agency when they signed Tom Brady, and two days before the 2020 NFL Draft they’re making another big splash. The Bucs are acquiring tight end Rob Gronkowski in a trade with the New England Patriots. The Bucs are giving up a fourth round pick in exchange for the un-retiring Gronk and a seventh round pick, according to multiple reports.

Gronk retired after the 2018 season and seemed content to enjoy life as a retiree. However, he started dropping some hints about interest in returning, and it all came to a head this week leading up to the draft.

With this move, the Bucs offense potentially takes an even bigger step forward. O.J. Howard has struggled to get going three years into this career, and there have been rumors the team is shopping him. Gronk likely does not have many years left in his return to football, but his downside still could offer more than what Howard managed over three seasons.

The Bucs offense was already intriguing with the addition of Brady, and now we can add Gronk to the picture. For the time being, their skill positions look like this, pending any potential trade of O.J. Howard.

QB: Tom Brady
RB: Ronald Jones
WR: Mike Evans
WR: Chris Godwin
TE1: Rob Gronkowski
TE2: O.J. Howard/Cameron Brate

But how much impact for the Bucs? Let’s take a look at some fantasy football implications on the offensive side of the ball.

Rob Gronkowski, TE

It is hard to tell what Gronk has left in the tank. Injuries have long been an issue for him, but he is probably as healthy as he has ever been in his NFL career. In his last season in 2018, he had 47 receptions for 682 yards in 13 games. The year prior he had 69 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

He is probably somewhere in the middle of those two numbers, but he also joins a team with a pair of dominant receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. It could open the middle of the field for Gronk, but he also might see fewer targets in Tampa.

He’ll be drafted as a TE1 in fantasy football, but it’s a question of how high. Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, and George Kittle are likely locks to be the top three tight ends taken in your leagues. After that, there’s Darren Waller, Zach Ertz, Jared Cook, Austin Hooper, and Hunter Henry. My guess is you’re best waiting until all of those tight ends are gone before targeting Gronk, but I could see name recognition inflating Gronk’s fantasy draft stock.

Tom Brady, QB

Brady was already upgrading on offense with Evans and Godwin. Gronk gives him a personal favorite, but how much of an upgrade will Gronk be over O.J. Howard? I suspect he’s an upgrade even with a year layoff, but in considering Brady for fantasy football purposes, I don’t think Gronk forces you to move Brady up your draft board much more than wherever he is currently at. Gronk could offer a little more upside, but Brady’s fantasy value doesn’t change much.

Mike Evans/Chris Godwin, WR

This is an interesting pair with Brady getting a friendly face added to the mix. On the one hand, better play from their tight end could clear out some of the safety help the star receivers have faced. On the other hand, will they see their targets diminish if Brady focuses on Gronk?

Godwin finished the season third in standard leagues, while Evans finished eighth while missing a combined give games on the season. Both remain top ten receivers, but Gronk could cost them a little bit. Not so much that you dock them right away, but it’s a tiebreaker to consider if you’re deciding between them and another receiver.

O.J. Howard, TE

Howard has been the subject of trade speculation this offseason. In spite of his talent, Howard has never been able to break out like people thought might happen. Bruce Arians has never been a big user of tight ends, but 2019 was disappointing nonetheless. It would not be surprising to see Howard traded before the end of the draft weekend. If he gets dealt, he could build his fantasy value back up. If he does not get traded, he holds little value in fantasy football.