The sudden retirement of Rob Gronkowski left the New England Patriots shallow at their tight end spot. Currently, the Patriots have three tight ends in Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo but none of them has been able to fill the void left by Gronkowski, who played nine seasons with the Patriots before deciding to retire following their sixth Super Bowl win. Based on statistics from Boston Sports Info, the output from Patriot's tight ends has significantly dropped this season compared to their past campaigns, particularly from 2010 when New England drafted Gronkowski in the second round of the NFL Draft.

Through nine games this season, veteran quarterback Tom Brady targeted his tight ends just 27 times and successfully connected with them 18 times for 242 yards and a touchdown. Izzo is currently the Patriots’ top tight end with six catches for 114 yards and a score while Watson, who came out of retirement and joined New England this season, has eight catches for 72 yards.

Patriots miss Gronkowski’s production

In the same period last season, Brady targeted his tight ends 49 times, completing 34 passes for 500 yards and a score. In his last season with the Patriots, Gronkowski caught 47 passes for 682 yards and three touchdowns. In their first nine games in 2010, Brady completed 55 of 79 passes for 664 yards and eight touchdowns to their tight ends.

That year, Gronkowski finished his rookie season with 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 scores. Through nine games in 2011, Brady completed 89 passes for 1,083 yards and 13 touchdowns to their tight ends. That year, Gronkowski finished with 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Patriots. In his nine-year stint in New England, Gronkowski had 521 catches for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns.

Kraft wants Gronk to return

Statistics from Boston Sports Info is a major reason why the Patriots badly need the services of Gronkowski, who is now busy in his new job as football analyst for Fox and in his new CBD oil business. That is also the reason why the Patriots are hoping that Gronkowski will return to help them in their postseason push, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

In his column, Rapoport said Patriots CEO Robert Kraft approached Gronkowski while he was cleaning his locker last spring and told him that he wanted him to come back to help their playoff push in the 2019 season. Rapoport said Kraft specifically told Gronkowski that he wanted “him to return for November, December, and the playoffs stretch run.” Rapoport added that the Patriots would welcome Gronkowski back if he decides to return. The Patriots must put Gronkowski on their active roster after Week 13 or until Nov. 30 for him to become eligible for the playoffs. However, Gronkowski told John Kryk of the Toronto Sun that he’s not keen on returning this season, but he is open to making a comeback in the future.