It probably feels like this offseason has been nothing but one continuous trip to the operating room for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski – a feeling encapsulated nicely by NFL Network’s Rich Eisen.
If Gronk has any more procedures, his nose with light up red and buzz every time the surgeon touches the sides.—
Rich Eisen (@richeisen) May 17, 2013
While doctors have yet to try and extract Gronk’s funny bone or remove butterflies from his stomach, there have been some nagging issues that are starting to look like red flags as training camp approaches.
First, there’s the ongoing issue with Gronkowski’s forearm. As expected, the fun-loving pass-catcher will undergo a fourth surgery to repair the injury suffered late last season. At that time, doctors will have a better idea whether the infection that has hindered his recovery is all clear. But then comes word that Gronk will need to go under the knife to alleviate “chronic” back pain and is likely to miss some of training camp.
The Patriots had expected their top tight end to be back in action by the time training camp begins. That won’t be the case. Even if he’s ready to go for Week 1, the accumulation of injuries is making it harder to justify Gronk as the first tight end off the board (don’t forget the ankle surgery that took place after the 2012 playoffs). Right now, that distinction would go to Jimmy Graham, though Gronkowski shouldn’t be any worse than the third tight end selected in most drafts.
However, it begs the question of what this means for Tom Brady. There are few quarterbacks who can retain their value as things crumble around them. Brady happens to be one of them. But even Tom Terrific can only sustain so many losses to his receiving corps before fantasy owners need to rethink his value.
At best Brady will start the season with a pair of recovering tight ends — Aaron Hernandez has had his own medical issues this offseason — and a new wide receiver in Danny Amendola that has missed more games than he’s played over the past two seasons. It’s easy to argue in the past that Brady has found success with a less-than-stellar cast of receivers, but can a Donald Jones-Julian Edelman-Aaron Dobson triumvirate match the past production of the Deion Branch-David Givens-Troy Brown three-headed monster?
That’s not to suggest Brady will be a fantasy bust this season. You don’t put up the career numbers he has by strictly being a product of the receivers around you. But it’s fair to think that the Pats field leader could slip in the quarterback rankings this year, maybe falling behind longtime rival Peyton Manning, among others.
There are still a couple of months before things get dire with Gronkowski and his injury situation, so it’s likely that these won’t be the final words written about his value. But you best believe fantasy owners are taking a keen interest in how well things go in the days and weeks to come.
– Follow Marcas on Twitter @MarcasG