Is Rob Gronkowski playing tonight vs. the Giants?

After missing two months with various maladies, is Rob Gronkowski playing tonight, and what should fantasy managers do if Gronk sits?

Although he’s played in just four games, tight end Rob Gronkowski has been the overall TE3 in PPR fantasy points with 14.6 points per game. For reasons I cannot begin to understand, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers activated Gronkowski in Week 8. He played 6 snaps before being forced to exit. After another couple of weeks to rest, fantasy football managers just want to know if Gronk is playing tonight.

Update 11/22/2021: Rob Gronkowski is officially active for the New York Giants tonight against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rob Gronkowski’s injury

Having played fantasy football for nearly two decades, I’ve developed a good sense of which direction injured players are trending in. Typically, we know whether questionable means probable or doubtful. When it comes to Gronk, it’s impossible to ever feel confident.

The Bucs have essentially been without Gronk after he fractured his ribs and pictured a lung following a big hit in Week 3. Over the past two months, he’s been trending toward a return multiple times, only to have it come to a screeching halt. More recently, he’s been on the injury report with back spasms.

Is Gronkowski playing tonight?

If this were any other player, I would confidently tell you he’s playing. Gronk practiced fully on Thursday and Friday before getting Saturday off. That sounds like a player completely recovered and ready to go.

Unfortunately, this is Gronkowski we’re talking about. Head coach Bruce Arians said Gronk was nearing a return on multiple occasions, and he didn’t play. Arians said the same thing about expecting Antonio Brown back following the bye — that didn’t happen either.

There’s also the possibility that Gronk — a man who has taken many hits over the course of his career — tightens up in pre-game warmups and can’t go. It’s the back spasms that are more of an issue now than the ribs or the lung. Back injuries are tricky and can flare up at any moment.

My current expectation is Gronk plays. I believe that is the plan, and the Bucs are expecting him to return. The only hiccup would be if something happens before the game. While it’s certainly unlikely, it’s more likely for Gronk than your average player.

What should fantasy managers do if Gronkowski doesn’t play?

Few things in fantasy football are more frustrating than questionable Monday Night Football players. Most fantasy managers had to make a call on Gronk Sunday morning. You either rolled the dice on Gronk playing, or you went with a safer option you knew was playing on Sunday.

When it comes to Gronk, it is more viable to wait on him than typical Monday night questionables because there are two pivot options.

O.J. Howard or Cameron Brate?

During Gronk’s absence, the Bucs have also been without AB. As a result, they’ve played more 12 personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR). It’s good news for fantasy managers that O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate are both on the field. Howard and Brate have both played around 60% of the offensive snaps. The bad news is neither Howard nor Brate has been particularly useful.

If Gronk is not playing tonight, fantasy managers will have to pivot to Howard or Brate. Which one? Heck if I know. In Gronk’s absence this season, Brate averaged 4 PPR points per game, and Howard averaged 5.7 PPR. Neither is providing much value. In fact, even if you could start both, it still would be just two-thirds of one Gronk.

Howard didn’t see a target last week, but Brate only caught 1 pass (albeit a touchdown). In the time Gronk missed, Howard is the only one to actually have a useful fantasy day. He caught 6 of 7 targets for 49 yards and a touchdown in Week 6. In a true desperation scenario, Howard has a slight edge over Brate for me.

The Giants are right in the middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Of course, it’s worth noting Gronkowski hasn’t been active since Brown went down. Assuming Gronk is playing tonight, he should be third in the target hierarchy behind Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, and he is set up for a nice evening.

Jason Katz is a Fantasy Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @jasonkatz13 and find more of his work here. Don’t forget to listen to the PFN Fantasy Football podcast and check out our free fantasy newsletter.