Rob Gronkowski most valuable non-QB to contending teams

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was on a Hall of Fame track before tight end Rob Gronkowski came along in 2010, but the numbers surrounding their on-field relationship are nonetheless staggering. Take this one, for instance: Brady has been twice as likely to throw a touchdown pass when Gronkowski is on the field with him.

That statistical correlation (see chart) lines up with what any football analyst can see in the games, making Gronkowski my choice as the non-quarterback a contending team could least afford to lose. Settling on nine other players in my top-10 list required tougher decisions. An undrafted Seattle Seahawk made the list over Marshawn Lynch and Kam Chancellor, while the Dallas Cowboys' lone representative earned a spot despite having played only 34 snaps for the organization.

An important note: This is a look at non-quarterbacks deemed most valuable to their teams' specific postseason equations, not a ranking of the best non-quarterbacks on contending teams.

1. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

Gronkowski's return to health played a leading role in jump-starting New England's offense last season. Since 2010, when Gronk arrived via the draft, Brady has produced a top-five Total QBR score with Gronkowski on the field and a top-12 version when Gronkowski was out of the game. His passer rating without Gronkowski (87.7) would rank between the ones for Matt Schaub (88.0) and Andy Dalton (87.3) among 30 qualifying quarterbacks since 2010. Brady's passer rating with Gronkowski on the field (105.5) would trail only the 110.7 for Aaron Rodgers over that span. The chart below speaks loudly.