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Why Rob Gronkowski is the NFL's Best Tight End

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Why Rob Gronkowski is the NFL's Best Tight End
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Rob Gronkowski is the NFL's best tight end, and it's not even close.

Sure, the New Orleans Saints have a great pass catcher in Jimmy Graham and the San Diego Chargers have a Hall of Fame lock in Antonio Gates, but neither can match Gronkowski's ability to be a force in the passing game and the running game.

Armed with a 6'6", 265-pound frame, Gronk uses his size just about as well as anyone in football. His hands may be as soft as pillows, but his demeanor on the gridiron is as tough as a Spartan warrior.

In the running game, he disposes of linebackers the same way you or I would flick a fly off our shirt. In the passing game, he catches nearly everything thrown his way and is as unstoppable as a runaway train if he gets some space.

What is Gronk? Dominant?

Well, yes, he is dominant, but he's even more than that. How about "a beast," because that's what teammate Julian Edelman called him after Gronk's most recent performance—a four-catch, 96-yard, two touchdown performance in Prime Time on Monday Night Football against a struggling Kansas City Chiefs team. 

You think you can stop Gronk in the red zone?

In that game, the hulking tight end had two spectacular scoring plays. The first was a simple pitch-and-catch from Tom Brady where he let Big Rob do the rest. Gronk took the ball across the field and then down the field, 52 yards, leaving a defender rolling out of bounds after attempting to tackle him on the sideline. 

No dice. Gronk walked into the end zone unscathed and then unleashed his trademark power spike. The spike was so powerful that head coach Bill Belichick later wondered whether his tight end was digging for oil.

Later, facing a third-and-two, Gronkowski drifted into the flat from the fullback position and Brady once again tossed him the ball and asked him to do the rest.

To say he finished off that play with a "bang" would be an understatement. 

No. 87 stiff-armed a would be tackler at the first-down line and then rumbled (an appropriate word) 19 yards towards the orange pylons before being taken out, legs first, by Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson.

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For a split-second, Patriots Nation held their breath.

Gronk had flipped in the air, head-over-heels, and landed directly on his neck. He gathered himself after a moment or two, staggered to his feet, and delivered power spike No. 2 on the night. Patriots fans breathed a sigh of relief and rejoiced.

It's not all about the overwhelming physical supremacy though. Gronk has some pretty damn good numbers to show for it.

He became the fastest tight end to ever reach 20 touchdowns, doing it in only 26 career games, a number that broke the record held by Hall of Famer Mike Ditka. His 17 touchdowns in the red zone since his arrival in 2010 are most in the NFL. And probably most importantly, he has caught 56 of the 69 passes thrown his way this season according to ESPN, which gives him a ridiculous 81 percent catch-rate.

This is all without the basic stats: among pass catchers, Gronk is second in the NFL in touchdowns, ninth in yards, sixth in yards-after-catch, and third in first-downs.

Graham, a phenomenal receiver in his own right, beats Gronkowski in just about every category.

So how is it possible to say that Gronk is the best tight end in football?

The answer is simple: being a tight end is a two-way street. You get all the fame and all the praise from scoring touchdowns and catching passes—but half of your job is to clear running lanes for the halfback, or double-team explosive pass rushers to protect your quarterback.

In the blocking department, a comparison between Gronkowski and Graham is laughable.

You know what else is laughable? When someone thinks they can single cover Rob Gronkowski in the red zone.

I have one word for you: Touchdown.

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