Rob Gronkowski. Know the name. Gronkowsi is the 22 year old sophomore out of the University of Arizona. He stands at 6-6, 265 lbs, and the Patriots grabbed him with the 42nd overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. He's also off to one of the best starts a tight end has had in NFL history.
Over his career of 26 games, Gronkowski currently stands at 98 receptions, 1351 yards, 20 touchdowns, and endless snaps as an elite blocker. As he currently stands in comparison to other tight ends and their first two seasons in the league, Gronkowski is on pace for:
26 Touchdowns - 1st all time. Currently 1st all time with 20 touchdowns over first two seasons, and still has six games to go. Mike Ditka is 2nd with 17 touchdowns. Jimmy Graham is on pace for a three-way tie at third with 15 touchdowns (or a three-way tie at fourth after historical adjustments). [projected to a 16 game season, Ditka would have 19 touchdowns]
132 Receptions - 2nd all time. Keith Jackson is #1 with 144 receptions over his first two seasons. Jimmy Graham is on pace for 3rd with 130 receptions. [projected to a 16 game season, Ditka would have 130 receptions. Charle Young would have 135 receptions]
1834 Yards - 2nd all time. Mike Ditka stands at #1 with an incredible 1980 yards over his first two seasons. Jimmy Graham is on pace for 3rd with 1752 yards. [projected to a 16 game season, Ditka would have 2263 yards. Young would have 1771 yards. Jackson would have 1733 yards]
Keep in mind that some of these numbers are compared against players who competed in 14 game seasons- like Ditka, which makes Ditka's performance even more impressive. However, even when adjusting those historical numbers, Gronkowski finds himself on pace to be top 3 of all time with respect to touchdowns, receptions, and yards. Just as a receiver, Gronkowski is only matched by Mike Ditka over the course of his first two seasons.
Gronkowski is on pace to surpass the receiving numbers of the great receiving tight ends like Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow, and Ozzie Newsome- and a special note for Joe Senser who, despite his dramatic fall after his sophomore season, racked up some of the best numbers ever. In fact, barring injury, Gronkowski could pass all of those names over the next two weeks.
However, it's important to note that Gronkowski is much more than just a receiver. Looking at the top receivers, very few were qualified blockers. Ozzie Newsome was a willing, but poor blocker. Kellen Winslow was always flexed out as a receiver. Tony Gonzalez was an average blocker when he broke into the league. Antonio Gates cannot block. Jimmy Graham is currently a poor blocker.
Gronkowski blocks like a truck. From the first day he took the field, Gronkowski has been a dominant blocker in the run game and a versatile blocker in the passing game. According to Pro Football Focus, Gronkowski was the 5th best blocking tight end in the league, directly behind the Patriots own Alge Crumpler. This season, Gronkowski is far and away their highest rated blocking tight end.
When looking at the whole picture, Gronkowski is on track to open his NFL career with two seasons only matched by Mike Ditka, the man who revolutionized the tight end position. So while the future looks bright for Gronkowski, the present is looking pretty impressive.
Let's hope that Gronkowski can continue his rate of success and establish himself in the history books as one of the best tight ends in the history of the game.