2018 Patriots positional snapshot: Is TE Rob Gronkowski at a career crossroads?

[get_snippet] [theme-my-login show_title=0]
(Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

With the Patriots’ 2018 season done, we’re going to take a look back at the team by position, and provide a few thoughts as to what they might need at that spot moving forward. On Monday, we broke down the wide receivers and running backs. Now, it’s on to the tight ends.

2018 depth chart: Rob Gronkowski (47 catches, 682 yards, 3 TDs), Dwayne Allen (3 catches, 27 yards), Jacob Hollister (4 catches, 52 yards), James Develin (12 catches, 61 yards; 4 rushing TDs). (I know Develin is a fullback, but I’m going to group him with the tight ends, because that’s who he works with in practice.)

Contract status:
Gronkowski (signed through 2019), Allen (signed through 2019), Hollister (signed through 2019 - RFA), Develin (signed through 2020).

Overview: If the Patriots’ offense had been shorthanded in the past, we’ve been able to point to the tight end position and say, “Well, the presence of Gronkowski can paper over any sort of shortcomings that might exist.” That wasn’t the case in 2018, as the big tight end largely became a complementary part of the offense instead of serving as the centerpiece, as he had been for much of his career. Injuries slowed his production, and by the time December rolled around, the Patriots had largely become a power-running team. (Asked if he missed the end zone, he smiled at one point and said, “I think it misses me.”) There were still flashes of the old Gronkowski magic, but for the most part, he was no longer the overwhelming offensive presence he had been in the past. The good thing? Gronkowski was able to serve as a crushing blocker, helping clear a path for the likes of Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White. Proving he can still crank it up when needed, he had a bit of a renaissance in the postseason with 13 catches for 191 yards, including a HUGE reception in the Super Bowl that set the Patriots up for what turned out to be the deciding touchdown. Ultimately, if he decides to keep playing (more on that in a second), 2018 could be remembered as the year where Gronkowski underwent a career shift, moving from an every-down threat in the passing game to more of a supporting role in the overall offense.

[caption id="attachment_412249" align="alignnone" width="1400"] Brady and Gronkowski have been a formidable duo over the years. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)[/caption]

By the numbers: 619 - The number of career receptions in the regular season and postseason Gronkowski has registered on passes from Tom Brady. It’s the second most receptions anyone has from Brady all-time, trailing only Wes Welker (640). Julian Edelman is right behind them both with 607.

A few thoughts about the position moving forward: