You hear it every year. “At the tight end position, there is Gronk on top and then everyone else,” and I agree with that statement every year, except this one. There are some stats from the 2015 season that make a compelling argument for a rising star in Jordan Reed to take the top spot in the position this season. It is not as crazy as you think, Gronk may not be the number one tight end in 2016. There are plenty of situational hurdles, that knock Rob Gronkowski down slightly to the number two spot.
Before the pitchforks and torches pay me a visit, read on and hear me out. Rob Gronkowski is an elite tight end and is the best in the game. With that said, there are some reservations I have for ranking him as the number 1 tight end for 2016. First and foremost, Gronk will be without the talents of one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time for the first 4 weeks of the season. Tom Brady will not be able to be with the team for the entire span of his suspension and with that, could bring some rust upon his return in Week 5. As great as Tom Brady is, you can’t argue that he is now 39 years old and we will have to wait for 1/4 of the season to pass to see if his talent has begun to decline. There may have been some signs of decline already in Tom Brady’s last 4 games of the 2015 regular season:
|Last 4 Regular Season Games of 2015||117 attempts||79 completions (67.5%)||5 TDs|
|Final Regular Season Game of 2015||21 attempts||12 completions (57.1%)||0 TDs|
Tom Brady’s play was limited in the last game of the regular season, however, his end of the year numbers were not as good as another relevant quarterback to this article that I will talk about later.
Gronk will likely see a dip in targets this year with the return of WR Julian Edelman who missed the last seven games of the 2015 regular season. We will have to keep an eye on Julian Edelman’s leg injury he recently suffered in practice, but the latest reports are that it is not believed to be serious. I know that most of Gronk’s fantasy value rests in his red zone targets. This is where he truly shines and piles up on the fantasy points, however, this season may pose a threat to Gronk’s red zone targets with the addition of another viable tight end, Martellus Bennett. At age 29, Martellus Bennett was vastly underutilized with the Chicago Bears in 2015 even when healthy and I think both he and the New England Patriots know that. He’s just another talented option for Tom Brady to throw to that isn’t named Rob Gronkowski.
Entering the league in 2013, Jordan Reed was off to a slow start in his first two seasons. He has yet to play a full 16 game season in his young, 3-year NFL career. Reed had 50 receptions in 11 games played in 2014 for 465 yards and ZERO touchdowns. It is just a combination of what I began to see last year with Reed’s production, the increasing production of his quarterback, Kirk Cousins, and the question marks in New England to start the 2016 season that has me taking this stance on Jordan Reed vs Rob Gronkowski.
Jordan Reed put himself into the “top tight ends in the league” conversation with a breakout 2015 season:
|Rec||Yards||Average Yards Per Game||TD|
A very interesting stat I tweeted out at the end of July stated that Jordan Reed had 15 more receptions and the same number of touchdowns (11) as Gronk. The most surprising thing about this stat is that Reed played 1 LESS game than Gronk did in 2015. If you can get that kind of production from Reed compared to Gronkowski in 1 less game, it’s not crazy to think Jordan Reed could out-perform Rob Gronkowski in 2016. Given Gronk’s usual ADP of 1st round, I would pass on him and scoop up Reed in the 3rd or 4th round. Reed is currently the second tight end off the board almost 30 spots after Gronk is drafted. You cannot deny the potential, tremendous value you get with Reed when comparing these two tight ends.
My last piece of the argument for drafting Jordan Reed over Rob Gronkowski has to do with the growing talent of Kirk Cousins. Cousins started the 2015 season a little shaky, throwing 8 INTs in the first 7 games, however, after their week 8 bye he limited his INTs to 3 total over the last 9 games of the season. Another thing to mention; Cousins had a passing touchdown in every game in 2015, totaling 26 TDs. 38% of Cousins touchdown passes went to Reed. As I mentioned, Cousins was off to a slow start last season but proved the team could lean on him when it counted and rallied the Washington Redskins to a division title. Take a look at Kirk Cousins’ numbers in the final 4 games of the 2015 regular season:
|Last 4 Regular Season Games of 2015||89 completions||120 attempts (74.1%)||12 TDs|
|Last Regular Season Game of 2015||12 completions||21 attempts (80%)||3 TDs|
The point of this article is not to say Jordan Reed is a better tight end than Rob Gronkowski. I am simply stating that given the situational components and some interesting stats that can’t be ignored have lead me to believe that signs point to Jordan Reed providing you with more fantasy impact than Gronk in 2016. Even if they end up with very similar numbers this season, the draft value you get from drafting Reed much later than Gronk is a no brainer. Good luck this season!