NFL

Will Rob Gronkowski Smash His Prop Totals in 2020?

Last month, Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement and swayed New England into trading him to Tampa Bay, allowing a reunion with old buddy Tom Brady.

But even if you're not a Bucs fan or don't draft Gronkowski in fantasy, FanDuel Sportsbook can provide some added incentive in following his on-field exploits. FanDuel has a wide array of player props available for betting, and Gronk is one of several pass-catchers featured.

The over/under props for the former Patriot tight end are set at 599.5 receiving yards and 5.5 touchdowns. Should we side with a rejuvenated Gronk to hit the overs or expect him to come up short?

Let's take a look.

2018 Performance

The last time we saw Gronkowski in 2018, he accumulated 682 yards and 3 touchdowns over 13 regular season games -- not exactly one of his most productive campaigns.

In that season, he averaged only 5.5 targets per game (72 total), registering a 16.3% target share in the games he played. That low volume was especially notable considering top wideout Julian Edelman only played in 9 of Gronk's 13 games and still accumulated more targets (78) over those weeks. In fact, it was running back James White who led the team with 95 targets in Gronk's healthy contests.

Edelman is one thing, but it's troubling that Gronkowski wasn't able to garner a bigger share of targets against the likes of White, then-new Patriot Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Chris Hogan.

An obvious explanation would be the laundry list of injuries Gronkowski has endured over his career, as it's likely the wear and tear finally just caught up to him in 2018. He's missed games due to injury in six of his last seven seasons (he sat out a meaningless Week 17 in 2014), and he played single-digit regular season games twice (2016, 2013). And let's also not forget that he missed his entire 2009 season in college, which was why he dropped to the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft in the first place.

Overall, it's pretty clear that peak Gronkowski isn't walking through that door in Tampa.

A Fresh Start?

That being said, 599.5 receiving yards isn't a high bar to surpass, and he still did enough to beat that mark in 2018.

Gronk also curiously only saw 8 red zone targets that year after tallying 21 the year prior (T-3rd in the NFL), explaining his lack of scores. Theoretically, even splitting the difference between those two marks with the Bucs should help put Gronk in the ballpark of his touchdown prop. After all, outside of 2018 and Gronk's injury-shortened 2016 and 2013 campaigns, he's posted at least eight scores in his other six campaigns.

Of course, any return to form also means a clean bill of health. While there's no way to know for sure, after being battered and bruised over the course of nine NFL seasons, it's possible that a year of rest could outweigh any concerns of rust. For what it's worth, Gronk himself has suggested as much. It's also easy to forget that at 31 years old, we're not exactly talking about an ancient player.

However, Gronkowski's biggest hurdle might be his new teammates. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans form a formidable one-two punch at wideout, and Gronk will also have to share tight end duties with O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Godwin and Evans both racked up just under 120 targets apiece (around 8 per game), making up 46% of Tampa's team targets, per FantasyADHD.

Still, the good news is the targets could be pretty wide open after those two. Breshad Perriman finished with Tampa's third-highest target share (13%) and is now with the Jets. Among the tight ends, neither Howard nor Brate netted a target share of even 12%, with each averaging under 4 targets per game. That potentially leaves the door open for Gronk to take the brunt of those targets as the third option.

Furthermore, Bruce Arians' pass-heavy offense led to Jameis Winston leading the league in passing last season, so we should see Brady slinging it plenty in 2020. Brady didn't produce exceptional numbers in 2019, but this will be a much stronger supporting cast, giving the potential for improved numbers even as he enters his age-43 campaign. That could be the tide that lifts all boats, further helping Gronk's chances of bouncing back.

That's all well and good, but can we also expect Gronk to garner the brunt of red zone targets?

That could be a tad more shaky, as Evans (6-5, 231 pounds) and Godwin (6-1, 209) are big-bodied red zone targets in their own right. Evans led the team with 16 targets inside the 20 last year, followed by Godwin with 12. Howard and Brate each tallied eight, too. Given Gronkowski's connection with Brady, it wouldn't be shocking to see him emerge as a top red zone threat, but these are a lot of mouths to feed when the Bucs get in scoring range.

2020 Outlook

There's room for cautious optimism with Gronk this season, but how do 2020 projections view him?

numberFire's projections aren't really buying into any bounceback, pegging him for just 38.2 receptions, 442.2 yards, and 4.8 touchdowns.

On the other hand, our Editor-In-Chief JJ Zachariason is much more optimistic. His model projects Gronk for 49.5 catches, 645.9 yards, and 5.5 scores. Managing Editor Brandon Gdula's projection is even more bullish at 52.0 catches, 797.0 yards, and 4.4 touchdowns.

With two out of three models liking Gronk to exceed 599.5 yards by a decent margin, the over is the way I'm looking there, at -112. Let's remember that he still hit that mark in a disappointing 2018 season while missing three games, and he now enters a pass-heavy system as Brady's most familiar target.

As for the touchdowns, all three models fail to see Gronk exceeding 5.5 scores, with JJ's projection coming the closest by hitting it right on the nose. There's theoretically some betting value in taking the over at +108 (compared to -136 for the under), but Gronk's stiff red-zone competition makes his output much more difficult to predict. Throw in Gronk's lengthy injury history and the under is the safer wager.