Now that the first round is out of the way (finally...nice draft pace, Knopping) and I've managed to procure an elite athlete and defensive back in Devin McCourty, it's time to begin the process of really putting together a complete team. I'm not going to be so foolish as to divulge my strategy this early in the game, but let's just say that I have a feeling that this draft is going to shake out just the way I want it to. Sure, it would have been nice to have Jamie Collins on my team, but I wasn't about to spend a first rounder on him. And yes, Julian Edelman is a great player to have on a flag football squad, but when you take a step back and look at what exactly it is that is going to give you an all-around powerhouse, there's really only one logical choice with my second pick. I've already got top flight speed, athleticism, and a defensive cornerstone in McCourty; now it's time to focus on some offense. And the fact of the matter is that there isn't a more dangerous offensive weapon than Rob Gronkowski.
Is Gronk the shifty, quick-cutting kind of player that Edelman is? Of course not. Is he your typical flag football prototype? Not quite. But is he flat-out uncoverable, a mismatch nightmare, taller than everyone else on the field with a 34 inch vertical and the wingspan of a man four inches taller than him, and capable of catching pretty much everything throw his way? You're damn right he is. We have all seen the Patriots offense with and without Gronk out there, and the difference is staggering. The Pats are all but unstoppable when Gronk is out there, and that's an 11-on-11 game where you're allowed to hit hard. Placing Gronk in a 7-on-7 game where you can't run into him as hard as you can is almost unfair. The bottom line is the only way to stop Gronk is to aggressively bump him at the line, throw off his timing, and physically maul him to the point where he can't get his hands on the ball. You just can't do that effectively in flag football, and because of that I just don't see how he isn't going to dominate. Go ahead and put Revis on Gronk; Brady will just throw it high and Gronk will come down with it.Gronk is covered? No worries, McCourty is running a Go Route and has just completely smoked everyone for the easy score. Between McCourty and Gronk, I have a combination that pretty much guarantees that somebody is always open. And I won't even talk about Gronk on the goal line, as it's simply no contest. Plus, as the best blocking tight end in the league, I know I have some solid protection against the blitz and that dreaded fast Mississippi count pass rush.
On defense, Gronk isn't going to be shutting down any receivers. However, I do think that he can hold his own against any player that my opponents might draft who don't run passing routes professionally. I'll put Gronk up against any linebacker or lineman that Greg or Rich want to trot out there, and I wouldn't hesitate for a second to use Gronk in a free safety role, as he moves very well laterally and has the long arms to break up deep passes. I can also send him in on a blitz - standard flag football rules give you one blitz per series - where he can get those arms up in Brady's face. He can be a linebacker presence across the middle to make receivers think twice about crossing routes, and I may even design some plays were I drop Easley back into short coverage and send Gronk in as the pass rusher. Just because defense isn't where he excels doesn't make him a liability by any means; a player with Gronk's size, on-field presence, and athleticism makes him an asset no matter where I line him up.
Plus, with Gronk on my team, the post-victory afterparty is sure to be completely nuts. That's worth a second round pick all on its own.