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Rob Gronkowski Announces Retirement: Fantasy Football Takeaways & Implications (2022)

Jun 21, 2022
Rob Gronkowski Retires

Former Buccaneers and Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement Tuesday.

Throughout the offseason, it was widely assumed that Gronkowski would eventually re-sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Despite being an unrestricted free agent, Gronkowski’s ADP hovered close to the Top 100 mark in early drafts, and most experts had him ranked as a high-end TE2 with clear TE1 upside.

What does the Gronkowski retirement mean for Tom Brady and the rest of the Tampa Bay offense? Our analysts are here to break down the fantasy football implications of the news.

Fantasy Football Redraft Draft Kit

Rob Gronkowski announces retirement

Former Patriots and Buccaneers star tight end Rob Gronkowski has announced that he will be retiring. (Source: Jordan Schultz on Twitter)

Fantasy Impact: Gronkowski has been one of the best tight ends in the NFL and fantasy football over his long career, and he’s finally deciding to hang it up at 33 years old. He was still effective over the last few years of his career in Tampa Bay, and his departure will make room for other receiving threats like Cameron Brate or Russell Gage to step up and take some of the targets.
Leo Sells


Of course, this isn’t the first time Gronk has retired. And his quarterback and good friend Tom Brady also briefly retired a few months ago only to un-retire about a month later. For those reasons (and because his agent has already hinted about a potential return), don’t be surprised if fantasy managers in some leagues still use a late-round dart throw on the veteran tight end.

Fantasy Analysis, Takeaways, & Implications

Rob Gronkowski announced that he’s retiring from football per his Instagram and NFL insider Jordan Schultz. The future Hall-of-Famer is no stranger to hanging up his cleats, having first retired in March of 2019, before coming back to win a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020.

I’d assume at this point Gronk’s new retirement plans are more concrete in 2022, with him having nothing else to add to his Gold Jacket resume. I wouldn’t completely 100% rule out a return with Tom Brady still playing quarterback, but at this point, the best approach would be to view/project the Buccaneers without Gronkowski in 2022.

Because his absence creates massive fantasy ripple effects for the entire Buccaneers offense, starting with TB12. Historically speaking, Brady’s numbers have suffered without his big target.

Tom Brady Splits with Rob Gronkowski

Completion % TD% Rating Yards / Game
With Gronk 66% 6.0% 103.8 291.6
Without Gronk 61% 4.5% 89.6 261.6

It didn’t play out that way in 2021 as Brady still averaged 22.7 fantasy points per game in the six games that Gronk missed (QB3), but I’d hardly say that’s sustainable based on the two duo’s chemistry.

Brady’s expected fantasy points per game – a better indication of future production – did decline without Gronk from 23.3 to 21.8. The GOAT remains my QB7 as I already was baking in the idea that Gronkowski would not be returning. He’s still more than worthy of drafting as the QB9 per ADP based on how pass-heavy the Buccaneers project for.

Gronk’s departure from Tampa also impacts the Buccaneers tight end room massively because it thrusts Cameron Brate in the starting tight end role – the Harvard man is under contract till 2024.

Although Brate was a non-factor in the games he filled in for Gronkowski last season. He averaged just three targets and 3.8 fantasy points per game. However, he was splitting snaps with O.J. Howard (signed with Buffalo this offseason), so there’s reason to believe he will have a more fruitful role in 2022. Not to mention his competition for targets last season – Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Antonio Brown – will look much less menacing to open the year between mostly Evans and Russell Gage.

He’s easily worth drafting in Best Ball drafts while his price remains cheap, but don’t go out over your skies to snag him in redraft formats. His sub-9% target rate per route run while Gronk was sidelined doesn’t necessarily enthrall confidence that Brate is Brady’s guy. You’re hoping he emerges as a boom-or-bust TD scorer based on his 20 red-zone targets – tied for 2nd with several tight ends – from last season. It wouldn’t be the first time Brate would be a fantasy TE1 having finished top-8 in 2016 and 2017.

As for Evans and Gage, Gronk’s departure solidifies their rock-solid status in the Buccaneers’ offense with Godwin also projected to miss the start of the season.

Evans caught seven of his 14 touchdowns last season without Gronk while averaging a 17% target share and 17.8 fantasy points per game. Godwin averaged nearly six receptions per game as the team’s primary slot receiver, a role that Gage projects to inherit. And this all happened with AB active from Weeks 4-6. In the next three games without both AB and Gronk, Godwin averaged ten targets per game and Evans caught five touchdowns. Brate combined for just seven targets.

What does this news mean for Cameron Brate?

With Rob Gronkowski calling it a career, Cameron Brate steps in as the unquestioned starting tight end with only Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Codey McElroy, Ben Beise, and J.J. Howland on the roster behind him. If touchdowns are the lifeblood of tight ends, Brate is alive as a fantastic late-round option. Last year Brate was tied for ninth in red-zone targets in the NFL. While he was 56th out of 58 tight ends in yards per route run last season, Brate has flashed far more efficient seasons in the past (minimum 20 targets, per PFF). In 2020 he was sixth in yards per route run at the position while also finishing 16th in back-to-back seasons in 2016-2017 (minimum 20 targets, per PFF). Last season his aDOT dropped to 7.8 as he was used primarily as a goal-line weapon, but he could see it climb back to the 10.0 range he enjoyed in 2016-2017. Brate is cheap exposure to one of the best offenses in the NFL.
Derek Brown

POS QUARTERBACKS AGE COLLEGE ECR BEST WORST ADP 2021 QB RANK
QB1 Tom Brady 44 Michigan 8 4 14 9 3
QB2 Kyle Trask 24 Florida 51 43 57
QB3 Blaine Gabbert 32 Missouri 55 43 55 68

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Depth Charts
POS RUNNING BACKS AGE COLLEGE ECR BEST WORST ADP 2021 RB RANK
RB1 Leonard Fournette 27 LSU 12 5 22 12 8
RB2 Rachaad White 23 Arizona State 58 37 99 48
RB3 Ke’Shawn Vaughn 25 Vanderbilt 75 59 110 65 95
RB4 Giovani Bernard 30 North Carolina 97 76 112 90 79

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Depth Charts
POS WIDE RECEIVERS AGE COLLEGE ECR BEST WORST ADP 2021 WR RANK
WR1 Mike Evans 28 Texas A&M 8 5 11 11 8
WR2 Chris Godwin 26 Penn State 28 14 60 21 16
WR3 Russell Gage 26 LSU 48 32 71 49 53
WR4 Tyler Johnson 23 Minnesota 115 99 139 115
WR5 Jaelon Darden 23 North Texas 143 95 138 97 179
WR6 Breshad Perriman 28 UCF 145 107 146 122 140
WR7 Scotty Miller 24 Bowling Green 160 116 146 197
WR8 Cyril Grayson Jr. 28 LSU 163 136 143 109

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Depth Charts
POS TIGHT ENDS AGE COLLEGE ECR BEST WORST ADP 2021 TE RANK
TE1 Cameron Brate 30 Harvard 38 21 50 32 28
TE2 Cade Otton 23 Washington 56 41 64

 

 

2022 Fantasy Football Staff Consensus Rankings

2022 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros

 

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