Guest of the League
ANEZ LEAGUE Est. 2017
NFL Playoffs League - FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

After tough year, Gronk coming alive at right time for Pats

Tue Jan 22 7:32pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer

Players: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Sony Michel

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) runs against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller (23) during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Daniel Sorensen (49) during the first half of the AFC Championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Even as Rob Gronkowski turned in a vintage performance with his big grabs down the stretch in the AFC championship game, the veteran Patriots tight end also did plenty of dirty work.

Gronk the blocker? The label didn't fit in the past. But this season, one of the best receiving tight ends in NFL history and Tom Brady's longtime favorite target made some big contributions to the Patriots' rejuvenated running game.

''Whatever coaches call, whatever plays we call ... blocking, receiving, no matter what is, whatever play is called, just got to go out there and do your job,'' Gronkowski said.

It was an underwhelming season statistically for Gronkowski, who contemplated retirement after last year's Super Bowl loss. He appeared in 13 games as he fought through nagging back and ankle injuries, finishing with 47 catches for 682 yards and three touchdowns.

But Gronk did more of the things that don't appear on the stat sheet. And he's fine with that as he heads into a Super Bowl matchup with the Rams eyeing the third ring in his nine-year career.

Brady said Gronkowski's ability as a blocker might be the most underrated part of his game.

''He's one of the most dominant blocking tight ends in the league,'' Brady said. ''He's a threat any time he's out there.''

One of his biggest plays in the Patriots' overtime victory over Kansas City for the AFC title came in the run game.

After the Chiefs took their first lead, New England responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Gronkowski pushing aside Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston on fourth-and-inches and allowing Sony Michel to jog into the end zone from 10 yards out.

Gronk's future beyond this season is once again an open question. He will be entering the final season of a six-year contract in 2019 and is scheduled to make about $9 million. Before the season, he acknowledged he would like to rework the deal, and he skipped a voluntary offseason workout. He later had bonus incentives added to his contract.

He'd be missed if he doesn't return. After a quiet performance in the Patriots' divisional playoff win over the Chargers, Gronkowski was targeted a season-high 11 times against the Chiefs, catching six passes for 79 yards and coming up with big grabs down the stretch.

Brady was 5 for 5 on third down in the fourth quarter and overtime, with two of those passes going to Gronkowski. Those catches, for 25 and 15 yards, set up the go-ahead and game-winning touchdowns.

It was nothing new for the 29-year-old Gronk, who entered the season with 75 postseason receptions - the most by a tight end in NFL history. In the regular season, he has the most TD catches thrown by Brady to any player (78).

The Rams' defense was the second-worst in the league this season, giving up 1,075 yards receiving to opposing tight ends. It should mean plenty of opportunities for Gronkowski to show the combination of size, strong hands and agility that has made him a matchup nightmare throughout his career.

His chemistry with Brady means he knows the ball could always come his way, no matter what kind of game he's having.

''You've got to have confidence in each other,'' Gronkowski said. ''That's what practice is all about. That's knowing each other is all about. Knowing that when it comes to those situations and you've got to put that ball up, I've got to make the play. ... That's the trust that we have with each other. We love playing with each other. Just a bond we have, to go out there and always be on the same page.''

Player Notes
Mackensie Alexander Jun 17 2:43am ET

Minnesota Vikings CBs Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes have expiring contracts and might be candidates for extensions. 'I'm not thinking about that,' Waynes said. 'I'm worried about this season.'

Malik Hooker Jun 17 2:33am ET

Indianapolis Colts FS Malik Hooker took part in the offseason program for the first time in three seasons, and he caught the eye of head coach Frank Reich.

Devin Funchess Jun 17 1:53am ET

Indianapolis Colts WR Devin Funchess struggled to establish a consistent rapport with QB Jacoby Brissett during organized team activities (OTAs), as starting QB Andrew Luck was held out. Head coach Frank Reich still praised the aptitude and route running of Funchess.

Fantasy Spin: Funchess had a high drop rate in Carolina last season, and it appears he is off to a slow start in his new home. He is expected to fulfill the No. 2 receiver spot filled by Ryan Grant and Dontrelle Inman last season, so there is a possibility he re-emerges as a decent fantasy option working with Andrew Luck, but wait to see how he does in the preseason.

Dante Pettis Jun 16 8:53pm ET

San Francisco 49ers WR Dante Pettis has impressed QB Jimmy Garoppolo and head Kyle Shanahan with his new physique and attention to detail. 'Dante's body is maturing,' Garoppolo said. 'He's coming out of breaks with power, he has speed.' 'He worked while he was away,' Shanahan said. 'He tried to get bigger. He worked more at his routes and he came here with the idea of 'Hey, I'm not just coming here to get better back in shape, I'm coming here to get better.''

Fantasy Spin: While it remains to be seen who will emerge as the top receiver in the San Francisco passing attack, Pettis is certainly a solid bet. He is set to open the year as a starter, and he flashed some upside at the end of last season. Consider him a WR4 with the upside to be a regular fantasy starter.

Garrett Celek Jun 16 8:33pm ET

San Francisco 49ers TE Garrett Celek (back) 'faces some pretty big odds' to make the 53-man roster, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area.

DeSean Jackson Jun 16 3:33pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson has been embracing his role as a veteran and leader this offseason, according to Zack Rosenblatt of NJ.com. The 32-year-old was present for all but one session of voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) practices. 'He's done everything we've asked him to do,' receivers coach Carson Walch said. 'He's been great in the meeting room. Some of our young guys sometimes are in awe seeing DeSean Jackson in our building.'

Fantasy Spin: Jackson's expected to start on the right side for the Eagles, opposite Alshon Jeffery with Nelson Agholor in the slot. He led the league with 18.9 yards per reception with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season and finished with 774 yards and four touchdowns in just 12 games. His best games have been difficult to predict in the past, but he has a lot of upside as a WR3.

Alvin Kamara Jun 16 2:33pm ET

New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara will be tasked with an expanded role in 2019 with the departure of backfield mate Mark Ingram. 'I'm so anxious to see like, 'What else?'' Kamara said recently. 'You know what I'm saying? What else could I do? Where else could I line up? How else could I be successful? That's the best part of this profession for me. What's the next step you're going to take? 'Ok, he was good last year. How are you going to prove that you are what you are?''

Fantasy Spin: Kamara went from 201 touches as a rookie to 275 this past season with 81 receptions each season. Latavius Murray has been added to help shoulder the RB load, but look for another 275-plus touches this season for Kamara who should be one of the first five RBs off the board in any fantasy draft format this summer.

Bradley Roby Jun 16 2:03pm ET

Houston Texans CB Bradley Roby (undisclosed) has been sidelined most of the offseason by an undisclosed soft-tissue injury. 'He hasn't done much, so we'll just have to see (him) in training camp,' O'Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle.

Jared Goff Jun 16 1:03pm ET

Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff is in line for a new contract, and Rams general manager Les Snead told the Los Angeles Times on Friday, June 14, that the team has had 'preliminary discussions' with Goff's agent, Ryan Tollner, regarding a timeline for talks. Los Angeles Times, Rams G.M. Les Snead said Friday that the Rams have had 'preliminary discussions' with Tollner regarding a timeline for talks regarding Goff's deal. '(It's) nothing heavy,' Snead said of the communications. 'No heavy lifting.'

Fantasy Spin: Meanwhile, Goff is coming off his best fantasy season yet, finishing seventh overall among fantasy QBs, and he should be valued as a low-end QB1 for 2019.

Mike Williams Jun 16 12:43pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers WR Mike Williams says he is preparing to take on an expanded role in 2019. 'We lost a big weapon in Tyrell (Williams), (so) a lot of people in the room have to step up,' Williams said Friday, June 14, on the the final day of the team's minicamp. 'I feel like me being the player that I am, I feel like I can do that... I feel like the role is going to change. I feel I'm going to get a lot more opportunities than I did last year. A lot more balls coming my way. I'm looking forward to it.'

Fantasy Spin: Williams was uber-productive last season as an NFL sophomore with 10 of his 43 receptions resulting in touchdowns and a league-best 83.7 percent of his catches going for first downs. Expect more targets and receptions for Williams this season but do expect a TD rate regression. He's a solid WR3.

Kareem Hunt Jun 16 12:33pm ET

Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt has drawn the praise of former Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce. 'I think so, without a doubt,' Kelce said Saturday, June 15, when asked if he believes the Browns are getting the best version of Hunt. '... I think you guys are getting an unbelievable athlete, somebody who can change the game with one or two carries, one or two touches and really give you a chance to win.'

Fantasy Spin: Hunt is suspended for the first eight games of the season due to his personal-conduct violations, but he could be a factor late in the fantasy season while also serving as a potential spoiler for Nick Chubb and his fantasy owners. Don't bother, though, with trying to stash Hunt from the start of the season unless you have the bench spot to burn.

Eli Manning Jun 16 11:23am ET

The New York Giants may decide to carry only two quarterbacks on their 2019 roster if the coaching staff is convinced that QB Daniel Jones would be able to capably fill in for QB Eli Manning when called upon. Previously, it had been believed that Kyle Lauletta and Alex Tanney would be fighting for the No. 3 quarterback spot on the roster but there's a possibility that neither player will make the team. If the Giants opt to keep three QBs, Tanney is believed to have a slight edge over Lauletta.

Fantasy Spin: Both Manning and Jones should be regarded as low-end QB3s for now, especially following the departure of Odell Beckham Jr., although Jones has added value in dynasty formats. Tanney and Lauletta possess no fantasy value.

Christian Kirk Jun 16 1:23am ET

Arizona Cardinals WR Christian Kirk is displaying a 'good feel' for the offense under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Cody Core Jun 15 9:33pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals WR Cody Core (elbow) has been able to participate in minicamp.

Paul Worrilow Jun 15 5:43pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles LB Paul Worrilow (knee) missed a week of practice this offseason because of a knee injury.

Jalen Mills Jun 15 5:43pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles CB Jalen Mills (foot) did not do much during offseason workouts because he is still recovering from a foot injury.

C.J. Prosise Jun 15 1:43pm ET

Seattle Seahawks RBs C.J. Prosise, J.D. McKissic and Travis Homer will all be candidates for the third-down back role during training camp. Prosise and Homer did miss some time this offseason because of hamstring injuries.

Patrick Mahomes Jun 15 11:33am ET

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes said that he would work on his footwork during the period between minicamp and training camp. He said that he misses many plays because his feet are in the wrong position and he relies too heavily on his arm.

Fantasy Spin: Generally speaking, it is an ill-advised strategy to select a quarterback in the first round of fantasy football drafts but Mahomes may be the exception to that rule. The defending Most Valuable Player is worthy of consideration as the top quarterback off the board in all formats.

Jason Verrett Jun 15 11:13am ET

San Francisco 49ers' CB Jason Verrett (Achilles') is expected to remain in the Santa Clara area during the break leading up to training camp and hopes to be able to return to the field when camp begins. He was unable to participate in OTAs and mandatory minicamp while recovering from a torn Achilles' tendon.

Christian Jones Jun 14 11:23pm ET

Detroit Lions LB Christian Jones (undisclosed) did not practice Thursday, June 14.