According to recent reports, Rob Gronkowski is on track to play Week 1. Making it to the starting lineup by Week 1 is one thing; staying healthy all season will be a different challenge. But insofar as he stays healthy, he presents a couple of interesting questions. First, when do you draft him? His current redraft ADP is pick 29, or near the middle of round three. If Jimmy Graham is the Queen on your chessboard, then what is a healthy Gronk? An arbitrage play? A nuclear warhead? Healthy Gronk is probably the only tight end that can put up similar numbers to Graham, and he’s 20 picks cheaper. But is 20 picks enough of a discount given his dicey health situation? Conversely, is a potentially healthy Gronk enough to make Graham’s ADP too rich? In best ball formats I’ll sprinkle in some Gronk, but in most formats, most of the time, I’ll be skipping both and doing the late round TE thing.
Here’s another conundrum: What to do about Julian Edelman? Take a look at his performance last year with and without Gronk.
That’s a pretty substantial difference. Edelman may still return fair value if Gronk stays healthy, but I’ll be looking elsewhere.
Here’s something interesting though. Know who performs better with Gronkowski in the lineup?
Quarterback Impact on Receiver Production
FiveThirtyEight recently ran a fascinating article about the impact a quarterback has on his receivers’ production. Nate Silver basically used QBR to parse out each QBs impact vis-a-vis an average QB. He even used PPR fantasy scoring to demonstrate which receivers benefited, or were hurt the most, by their QB. This work has application toward evaluating the prospects of any WR who has a new QB, but it’s also just really interesting. For example, if he played with an “average” QB, Calvin Johnson’s stats would decline by 10 percent, meaning that according to Silver’s calculations, Matthew Stafford must be an above average QB. Even with that drop in production, Johnson would still be the top fantasy WR in football.
Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd conversely, would improve 14 percent were they to receive average QB play. That may not happen for Fitzgerald before age-related decline sends him off to the fantasy sunset. But a new QB will definitely be part of Floyd’s future, and if that QB turns out to be average or better, expect a significant jump in his production. Keenan Allen’s production would drop 20 percent if Philip Rivers were no longer his QB, something to think about as Rivers ages. But considering how much value Rivers appears to be adding to Allen, Rivers is probably undervalued.
The most interesting finding, however, might related to tight ends, who collectively were hurt the most by poor QB play. This suggests that TEs, more so than WRs, need above-average QB play to be really successful. Fantasy impact? I like Eric Ebron to Detroit a bit more, as well as Jace Amaro to the Jets, since I agree that Geno Smith is kinda good. But this idea makes me a bit less sanguine on Austin Seferian-Jenkins to Tampa Bay, where neither Mike Glennon nor Josh McCown seem like above-average QBs.