The Players’ Tribune frequently runs articles in which an athlete breaks down who he or she believes are the toughest opponents to play against in his or her given sport.
Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris penned such a piece Wednesday on the hardest receivers in the NFL to cover, and the first name he mentioned was Rob Gronkowski.
“Yeah, he’s technically a tight end,” Harris wrote, “but I’m including Gronk, because when I think about the toughest guys to line up against, he’s the first name that comes to mind. Yes, he’s physically bigger than everybody. That’s a given. But the thing people don’t appreciate enough is that he’s got amazing hands. What makes him so difficult is that he’s 6-foot-6, 265 (pounds), but he also has the route-running ability and hands of a wide receiver.”
Harris went on to laud Gronkowski’s versatility and strength, then analyzed the New England Patriots tight end’s signature route.
“Gronk lines up in the slot and uses his strength to beat the first man, then he splits the soft spot between the corner/linebacker and the safety,” Harris explained. “The thing about the seam route is, the receiver knows he’s probably gonna get popped. He’s gotta catch the ball right in front of that patrolling safety. Gronk is able to take the punishment and hold on to the ball”
To illustrate this, Harris included a clip of one of Gronkowski’s greatest catches: the one-handed grab he made against the Broncos in 2014.
Gronkowski historically has been highly productive against Harris’ Broncos, catching 30 passes for 371 yards in five career regular-season meetings with Denver.
Also cracking Harris’ top five were Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts, DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans and A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images