Rob Gronk

Don’s DDNTL: Rob Gronkowski

The fine print says: may cause nagging injuries
Photo Credit: William Beutler


Death, taxes and injured fantasy stars – these are some of life’s certainties.  


Make no mistake about it, injuries WILL play a major role in fantasy football this year, and the more you know, the better your odds are of hoisting that virtual trophy. That’s where I come in. It’s time for the 2013 Don’s Do-Not-Trust List © (DDNTL): Fantasy Football Draft Edition. As a licensed and practicing physical therapist with years of experience treating a wide spectrum of sports related injuries (and a fantasy obsessed lunatic like the rest of you), I have the skills to steer you in the right direction. 


I’ll be discussing a number of players with injury concerns and whether or not I “trust” them to provide draft day value. To be clear: just because a player makes my list does not necessarily mean he’s not worth drafting; in fact, in some cases you can get great discounts if you pick your spots carefully. Any ADP data is courtesy of  While I’ll be covering a lot of players here, if there’s anyone I missed that you want to hear about, feel free to leave a comment or email me ( and I’ll help a brother (or sister) out. 


More after the jump:


Most of us know Gronk’s upside when he’s on the field – he’s arguably fantasy’s best TE when healthy with a freakish blend of size, strength, and athleticism (as well as a nose for the end zone). Gronkowski enters the season coming off four surgeries to repair a broken forearm and a very recent back surgery on June 19th. Gronk broke his forearm originally in Week 11 last season, underwent surgery to stabilize the fracture with a plate, and eventually returned for New England's playoff push. Unfortunately, Gronk managed to break his forearm again during the postseason, this time in a different location. Gronk again went under the knife to stabilize the fracture, however this time he developed an infection. Gronk required a third surgery to clean out the infection, and then a fourth surgery was performed to ensure the infection was gone and replace the hardware. By all reports Gronk’s forearm is doing well. He’s no longer wearing any casts or braces and he’s hopefully in the clear.  


Gronk’s back surgery is another matter entirely, and this is the primary concern in my eyes in terms of his availability this season. The Patriots are notoriously tight-lipped about specifics surrounding player injuries, and this is no exception. The surgery Gronkowski underwent was deemed “minor” by his agent with a recovery time similar to his forearm surgery (which was estimated at 10 weeks). 10 weeks of recovery time would have Gronkowski ready just one week prior to the start of the season. For this to be true, we can guess that Gronk’s back surgery was probably a more routine or minimally invasive procedure such as a discectomy (trimming away inflamed or damaged disc material) or laminectomy (removal of bone to alleviate nerve compression). While no spine surgery is “easy” to recover from, these procedures are typically much quicker to recover from than more involved procedures such as fusions (see Peyton Manning’s neck)  In both cases, it’s within the realm of possibility that Gronk could return in the timeline estimated, but there are countless variables that we don’t know about. Was there nerve involvement creating weakness (such as with Manning), which can take much longer to recover from? Is he still experiencing pain? Can he exert himself appropriately to train for the grueling NFL season? The list goes on and on. Medical professionals have a good understanding of spine anatomy but treatments are often hit and miss. This is part of the reason back pain is the most common orthopedic complaint in this country. Even if all goes as planned surgically, will Gronkowski find relief and be able to return effectively? It’s also important to note that Gronk had back surgery in college as well (it’s the reason his draft stock fell). Are these things related and are we seeing the beginning of a chronic issue that he’ll never get rid of?


Gronkowski’s current ADP is 28.7, making him the second tight end off the board. News reports that have surfaced about Gronk are somewhat conflicting: some say he’s progressing well and won’t start the season on the PUP. Others indicate that he’s yet to suit up in practice and seems likely to be placed on the PUP. At his current going rate, you’ll have to pass up a late second or early third round talent to acquire Gronk, and that is simply too much. This one is pretty easy folks, Gronk makes my list. There are simply too many uncertainties here for a guy with a very good chance of missing at least six games if things don’t go as planned. The Patriots as a team also throw a wrench into things for fantasy owners because they give so little information. Drafting Gronk is truly a leap of faith lottery ticket: if he ends up missing a game or two and returns fully operational, you make out like a bandit. If he starts the year on the PUP and you deal with weekly headaches about his availability thereafter, he could be a huge pain in the ass to own. This year, I’m letting somebody else deal with it, and I’m advising you to do the same. Should the price drop to a mid-tier TE level, which it probably won’t, then I’d be more inclined to gamble. There’s so many bargain TE’s late in drafts that it might be worth taking a reasonably priced gamble on Gronk since you can pair him with a low cost replacement/fill-in, but don’t pay the market rate.


About Starbonell

Starbonell is the co-founder of Sons of Roto and one of the most insightful and colorful fantasy analysts in the game. Mixing intelligent and well-researched advice with an entertaining style of writing that is easy to digest, Starbonell is the king of info-tainment.