Had he gone to the team that originally owned the 42nd overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, Rob Gronkowski would have lived a much different life in professional football. Instead of the Patriots taking him in the second round, the All-Pro tight end would have joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yet thanks to multiple trades, the man known simply as “Gronk” ended up in New England on April 23, 2010.
Seven years later, his impact both on and off the field speaks for itself. From a purely football standpoint, Gronkowski has been a smashing success even while the chief pre-draft concern about him (his durability) has been continuously realized. Despite missing large tracts of multiple seasons and playoff runs, Gronkowski has nonetheless set records and become one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers.
Yet on draft day in 2010, he was seen as something of an unknown (hulking) quantity. Despite excelling as a player at Arizona for two years, Gronkowski had missed his entire junior season due to the first of his back surgeries. At the NFL rookie combine prior to the draft, he attempted to quell concerns about his injury.
“My status is doing well,” Gronkowski said with characteristically unique syntax. Still, despite performing well in the combine drills, there were lingering question marks.
“Does not have a great top-end speed and may not be able to stretch the field at the next level,” read an NFL.com pre-draft analysis of Gronkowski. “Lacks the elusiveness to make people miss after catch.”
That said, the same report also noted after the Patriots picked him that the 6’6″ tight end had the talent to “blossom into a Pro Bowler.”
On the first day of the 2010 draft (the first held in prime-time), Gronkowski waited as players like Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and 29 others were selected ahead of him. No one was yet willing to take a chance on Gronkowski. But on the second day, the prodigious talent was too tempting a target to pass up.
The Bucaneers were the original owners of the 42nd pick, but had traded it to the Raiders. The Patriots, eyeing Gronkowski, made the decision to move up two spots from the 44th to the 42nd pick, sending their second and sixth rounders to Oakland. From the moment he knew he would be in New England, Gronkowski made a splash.
The ESPN broadcast captured the first of many NFL “Gronk” family moments after he was picked, and his interview with Deion Sanders emanated the upbeat attitude Patriots fans have grown to love:
Afterward, Gronkowski explained to the Boston Globe’s Shalise Manza Young why he decided to leave Arizona despite missing his entire junior season:
I heard from the NFL community that I could go as high as the second round [if he came out of school early]. That’s a pretty high pick – second round is plenty high enough for me. I just wanted the opportunity to play in the NFL.
Having broken the Patriots’ record for career touchdown catches and been a part of multiple Super Bowl teams, it’s safe to say Gronkowski has made the most of his opportunity.