Gronk vs. the greats

Rob Gronkowski scored another touchdown Sunday night in the Patriots’ 43-16 pasting of the previously unbeaten Bengals. That’s what Gronkowski does — at a rate never seen before by a tight end (and by few other receivers in NFL history). His latest, a 16-yarder over the middle from Tom Brady, was his 46th scoring catch in 56 games. Do the math, and it comes out to .82 TDs per game. Wow.

Only four receivers — all wideouts — have had more scoring receptions in their first 56 games. Their names should be pretty recognizable. Three are in the Hall of Fame, and the other, I’ve got to believe, will make it when he’s eligible.

MOST TOUCHDOWNS CATCHES, FIRST 56 GAMES

Years Receiver,Team TD
1962-66 Lance Alworth*, Chargers (AFL) 53
1985-88 Jerry Rice*, 49ers 50
1965-69 Bob Hayes*, Cowboys 47
1998-01 Randy Moss, Vikings 47
2010-14 Rob Gronkowski, Patriots 46
1957-61 Tommy McDonald*, Eagles 42

*Hall of Famer

It’s impressive enough that a tight end is keeping company with some of the greatest deep threats of all time. You get an even greater sense of the Magnitude of Gronk, though, when you compare him to Hall of Famers who played his position. (I threw in a few more who figure to reach Canton eventually — plus Jerry Smith, who held the TD record for tight ends for years and should never be left out of these conversations.)

TD CATCHES BY NOTABLE TIGHT ENDS, FIRST 56 GAMES

Years Tight End, Team TD
2010-14 Rob Gronkowski, Patriots 46
2010-13 Jimmy Graham, Saints 35
1961-64 Mike Ditka*, Bears 30
2003-06 Antonio Gates, Chargers 30
1979-83 Kellen Winslow*, Chargers 29
1965-69 Jerry Smith, Redskins 27
1963-66 John Mackey*, Colts 25
1974-78 Dave Casper*, Raiders 20
1978-81 Ozzie Newsome*, Browns 19
1997-00 Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs 19
1968-72 Charlie Sanders*, Lions 15
2003-06 Jason Witten, Cowboys 14
1963-66 Jackie Smith*, Cardinals 11
1990-93 Shannon Sharpe*, Broncos   7

*Hall of Famer

Sharpe, who finished with 62 touchdown receptions (a record since broken), is a reminder that some players, even future stars, take a while to establish themselves. That wasn’t the case with Gronkowski, of course. In just his ninth game he caught three TD passes against the Steelers and was off to immortality.

That is, if he can stay out of the operating room for a spell. He’s had a rough go if it of late with injuries, but he looked like the Gronk of Old on Sunday night. The Gronk of Old was a wonder to behold.

Source: pro-football-reference.com