He was neither the position's first fantasy football star nor its best in terms of career PPR fantasy points, but Rob Gronkowski ushered in this current era of dominating, pass-catching tight ends. His announcement Tuesday that he intends to retire leaves the position one notable name thinner heading into 2022.
Taking a look back at Gronkowski's remarkable career, and his standing among all-time tight ends, two things stand out: First, that he accomplished what he did in a relatively short period of time, as he retires at the age of 33, yet in 11 NFL seasons he scored the fifth-most PPR fantasy points among tight ends (2,103.8).
That bang-for-the-buck caliber of career was what earned him a 14.71 points-per-game average, which is more than any other tight end in history had except Travis Kelce (15.38).
From a single-game perspective, Gronkowski delivered his managers 25 or more PPR fantasy points in 20 of his 143 career games, the second-most behind only Tony Gonzalez's 22. A whopping 67 of those 143 games resulted in 15-plus points.
Gronkowski seemed to consistently deliver competitive, often matchup-winning worthy scores, rather than carrying his fantasy teams on his back. Only once did he score 35-plus PPR fantasy points, a threshold that has been reached on 49 occasions by a tight end since 1960, 10 of them in just the past four seasons, as his peak single-game score occurred in Week 8 of 2014 (41.9 points) against the Chicago Bears.
The second thing that stands out is that Gronkowski was an exceptional, high-end scoring talent -- a touchdown machine -- when he was able to remain consistently on the field. Injuries did begin to hold him back during his third season, in 2012, and in only three of his 11 campaigns did he appear in all 16 games, as he averaged only 11.9 games played from 2012-18 (seasons three through nine).
Gronkowski set a new bar for single-season tight end scoring in 2011, his second in the league, as his 330.9 PPR fantasy points shattered Todd Christensen's 28-year-old record.
In the end, Gronkowski delivered fantasy managers the tight end position's Nos. 1 (the aforementioned 330.9 PPR points, 2011), 14 (266.4 points, 2014) and 19 (255.6, 2015) single-season PPR point totals. He was his position's leading scorer in each of those three seasons, and a top-five positional scorer in those years as well as in 2012 and 2017.
What's more, following Gronkowski's one-year hiatus from the game -- his most recent "retirement," after the 2018 campaign -- he managed to finish eighth and 12th among tight ends in PPR scoring after joining Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
So if this is indeed the end of Gronkowski's storied career, he goes down as one of fantasy football's very best tight ends, and a surefire Hall of Famer. But, as mentioned above, he did come out of retirement once before, so we'll see whether this is really it!
Top 10 PPR fantasy point scorers among tight ends, all-time
1. Tony Gonzalez, 3,510.70
2. Jason Witten, 2,970.28
3. Antonio Gates, 2,827.10
4. Shannon Sharpe, 2,191.90
5. Rob Gronkowski, 2,103.80
6. Jimmy Graham, 2,067.90
7. Greg Olsen, 1,966.30
8. Travis Kelce, 1,953.66
9. Ozzie Newsome, 1,767.50
10. Vernon Davis, 1,708.70