Let me take you back to the 2010 NFL Draft.
With the 42nd pick two years ago, the New England Patriots selected Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski. Just one pick later, with the 43rd overall selection, the Ravens took Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle.
That sequence looks pretty lopsided now, just two seasons into Gronkowski and Kindle's professional careers. Gronkowski made the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams this year, while Kindle has appeared in just two NFL games since being drafted.
Ravens fans wanting "Gronk" here in Baltimore might wish that the 6-foot-6, 255-lb. tight end had stayed on the board just one pick longer back in April of 2010, but the reality is that the Ravens would not have taken Gronkowski if he had still been available at No. 43 overall. In fact, they wouldn't have taken the Arizona product even if he'd fallen to them in the third round.
The Ravens were one of a few teams that had pulled Gronkowski off their draft board because of injury concerns.
Gronkowski missed his entire junior season at Arizona after having back surgery, and while the Ravens loved his skill set and the tight end recovered well enough to run the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds at his pro day, Baltimore's talent and medical evaluators were not confident that Gronkowski was healthy enough to warrant a high selection.
"We were very interested in Rob," head coach John Harbaugh said yesterday. "There were medical concerns, but we loved him - loved him as a player, loved him as a guy. We were pretty certain he was going to be a good player, and he's exceeded our expectations."
So far, Gronkowski has not been slowed by his health at the NFL level. In fact, nothing has been able to slow the beast of a tight end.
Gronkowski has emerged as one of the toughest offensive players to cover throughout the entire league. This season, he set NFL records for the most receiving touchdowns (17) and receiving yards (1,327) by a tight end in a single season, and he had a monster game on Sunday, recording 10 grabs for 145 yards and three touchdowns in New England's divisional round win over the Broncos.
Just to put those numbers in perspective, Gronkowski had almost as many TD receptions as Joe Flacco had TD passes this season (20), and the number of yards he put up is almost 400 more than the yardage total recorded by Ravens tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta combined (933). Those two were also 2010 draft picks.
Kindle, meanwhile, missed all of the 2010 season after fracturing his skull in a fall down a flight of stairs, and has been active for just two games this season, seeing action mostly on special teams.
The Patriots' decision to draft Gronkowski despite his injury issues has obviously worked out to this point, but he's just 22 years old. It's far too early to say the Ravens made a mistake taking Gronkowski off their board when we don't know what will happen as far as injuries go down the road.
What is clear at this point, however, is that the Ravens will need to keep close tabs on Gronkowski on Sunday. They certainly don't want to be the next team to fall victim to the Gronk Spike.