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AFC East's best: No. 3 Rob Gronkowski

By Tim Graham

GronkowskiRMugThe countdown of my top 25 AFC East players continues, one weekday at a time ...

The choice

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski isn't simply an elite player. He also has changed the way defenses operate.

Gronkowski has broken several NFL and Patriots records. Last year, the Williamsville kid caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and a league-leading 17 touchdowns. The yards and touchdowns were the most in NFL history by a tight end. He also scored a rushing touchdown and topped the AFC in non-kicker scoring, the first tight end to lead a conference.

As a rookie, Gronkowski had a relatively modest 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns. But his two seasons put together were historic. No other tight end amassed 20 touchdown receptions faster. Gronkowski did so in 26 games, breaking Mike Ditka's record of 31 games.

Gronkowski's 27 touchdown catches fell one short of Randy Moss' record for players in their first two NFL seasons and ranked second only to Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson over the past two seasons.

Gronkowski broke the season record for most multi-TD games by a tight end with seven. Antonio Gates and Jerry Smith previously shared the record at just four games. Jerry Rice had seven multi-TD games only once in his illustrious career.

Fast fact

Averaged out, Gronkowski's career production against the Buffalo Bills would translate into a season of 88 receptions, 1,256 yards and 28 touchdowns.

How acquired

Selected in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2010 draft.

Hint about No. 2

It's either Tom Brady, Darrelle Revis or Tim Tebow.

Picks to date

3. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots tight end
4. Nick Mangold, Jets center
5. Wes Welker, Patriots receiver
6. Mario Williams, Bills defensive end
7. Vince Wilfork, Patriots nose tackle
8. Jake Long, Dolphins left tackle
9. Logan Mankins, Patriots left guard
10. Cameron Wake, Dolphins outside linebacker
11. Fred Jackson, Bills running back
12. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets left tackle
13. Kyle Williams, Bills defensive tackle
14. Sione Pouha, Jets defensive tackle
15. Jairus Byrd, Bills safety
16. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots receiver
17. Stevie Johnson, Bills receiver
18. Reggie Bush, Dolphins running back
19. Jerod Mayo, Patriots inside linebacker
20. Randy Starks, Dolphins defensive lineman
21. Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots right tackle
22. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots tight end
23. Marcell Dareus, Bills defensive tackle
24. Antonio Cromartie, Jets cornerback
25. Eric Wood, Bills center

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |