Arizona junior tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the entire 2009 season after undergoing surgery on a herniated disk and nerve damage in his lower back in September, has scheduled a press conference for Friday morning and is expected to announce that he's entering his name in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Though he doesn't have Jermaine Gresham's big name, the 6-6, 265 pound Gronkowski could compete with the former Oklahoma star at the top of tight end rankings if he can prove he's healthy. According to sources, Gronkowski flew on January 6th to Marina del Rey, California to meet with the doctor who performed the surgery on and has since been running and working out in preparation for next season.
Whether next season is with the Wildcats or the NFL, of course, only Gronkowski knows, at this time.
Considering that his older brother, senior H-back Chris Gronkowski will be leaving after this season and the relatively weak class of tight ends, scouts expect the 2008 first-team all-Pac-10 choice to leave early -- assuming he feels secure in the health of his back.
Voted a third-team All-American in 2008 after he caught 47 passes for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing the first three games due to illness (mono), Gronkowski entered the 2009 season on the John Mackey Award watchlist. With only two seasons under his belt, he's Arizona's all-time leading tight end in various categories, including the single game, single season, and career leader in receptions (75), receiving yards (1,197) and touchdowns (16).
Blessed with great size, good athleticism and soft hands, he's a true threat on short and intermediate routes and a better blocker than most give him credit for.
Completely healthy, he'd likely earn a first round grade from teams. Considering that seriousness of his back injury and resulting surgery, however, teams could be hesitant to use a first round pick on him. That said, in a class with only one other true headliner at tight end -- and, of course, Gresham is coming off his own surgery -- and a series of specialists (receiver specialists Aaron Hernandez, Ed Dickson and blocking specialist Anthony McCoy), a spot among the Top 50 certainly seems possible.