McShay on Gronkowski's draft prospects

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

When injured Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski watches precocious sophomore quarterback Nick Foles hurl the ball around with great precision, what do you imagine he thinks?

"Drat, that guy could have made me a lot of money." That's my guess.

It's a bye week for the Wildcats, so Arizona fans might need to occupy themselves with something.

How about this: Foles and four of Arizona's five leading receivers are scheduled to return next year.

So what about Gronkowski?

A couple of weeks ago, the true junior told reporters that he's seriously considering enter the NFL draft this spring -- that was a near-certainty before he required season-ending back surgery -- but he'd come back next fall if he wasn't projected as a first-round pick.

So I exchanged emails with ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay -- a fellow Richmond Spider -- on Gronkowski's potential draft status.

Here's what McShay wrote: "I think he's a fringe first-round prospect right now. He would be better served to return to school and continue to develop. He could be a top 20 pick in 2011 if he returns to form at AZ next fall. But if he leaves early, I could see him somewhere late first or early second round."

So, at present, it's a close call.

Gronkowski may want to get paid as soon as possible. But he comes from a well-off family; there isn't an urgent need.

And if he returned to form next fall, he could win the Mackey Award and play his way into the top-half of the first round, which would mean a much bigger signing bonus than if he went early in the second round. The 20th pick last spring, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, signed a five-year, $14.6 million contract with Detroit. The 40th pick, defensive tackle Ron Brace, got a four-year $3.884 million contract with New England. And Pettigrew got nearly $7 million more in guaranteed money.

That's certainly something to think about. As well as this: Arizona should be pretty good in 2010.