HOF Voters: Rob Gronkowski May Not Be 1st-Ballot Entrant If Patriots TE Retires

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2019

New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski (87) prepares to make a catch against Los Angeles Rams' Samson Ebukam (50) during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Rob Gronkowski will almost assuredly be an NFL Hall of Famer someday when he retires, but he may not get in on the first ballot.

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported, "Having consulted five members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee (there's 48 on the panel), none of them would firmly commit to the notion [of Gronkowski getting in on the first ballot]. He'll get in, there's not much doubt about that. It's just that no one is quite sure when. He might get passed over a few times, just like Ty Law."

And Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports told Guregian that Gronkowski's overall stats could hurt him in the eyes of some voters:

"His stats aren't as high as some of these other guys (who are in). But there's no doubt he's the most complete tight end of his era. But with his stats, there might be some discussion on whether he'd be a first ballot guy, or not. I can see it playing out where he might have to wait a little bit. But he's done enough to wear a jacket. Rob Gronkowski will be a Hall of Famer one day. He passes that eye test. He made so many big plays in so many big games. He's won so many rings. It's going to happen. It just comes down to when."

If Gronkowski retires this offseason, he'll have compiled an impressive Hall of Fame resume. The 29-year-old is a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team All-Pro, three-time champion and was the 2014 Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year.

His 17 receiving touchdowns led the NFL in 2011, and he finished top-10 in receiving touchdowns in six seasons. His 79 career touchdown receptions are tied for 28th in NFL history and are third among tight ends behind Antonio Gates (116) and Tony Gonzalez (111). 

His other stats are less impressive from a Hall of Fame standpoint. His receptions (521) are tied for 130th in NFL history, while his 7,861 receiving yards put him at 104th on the all-time list.

Were it not for injuries, those stats would have been far better. In his nine-year career, Gronk missed 29 games and both the 2013 and 2016 postseasons. In his prime, a healthy Gronkowski was unquestionably the best tight end in football, proving to be an impossible matchup for defenses given his impressive size, athleticism and hands.

"Everybody wants guys to be first-ballot guys. And they make it sound like they're no-brainers. The issue with him will be the brevity of his career," Fox59's Mike Chappell told Guregian. "I would almost compare him to (former Lions receiver) Calvin Johnson, who played eight or nine years. He’s way down the list in terms of career stats. But gosh, when he played, he was elite."

So yes, there's little question that Gronk is a future Hall of Famer. But as Guregian noted, of the nine tight ends in the Hall currently, only Gonzalez was a first-ballot selection, and his statistical output (1,325 receptions for 15,127 yards and 111 touchdowns in 17 seasons) was far more impressive.

So Gronkowski faces an uphill battle to be a first-ballot selection. But he'll one day be enshrined in Canton. There's little doubt about that.

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