The Buffalo Bills managed to find a few potential "fan favorites" in this year's crop of undrafted free agents. One more name of interest will be very familiar to people from the Buffalo area: Amherst native Glenn Gronkowski.
Gronkowski is the youngest of five brothers, three of which played or play in the NFL: Rob, Dan, and Chris. The eldest brother was a minor league baseball player. The family athleticism has been a trait for a few generations. Their father played offensive line at Syracuse, and his father was an Olympic cyclist.
Gronkowski went to Williamsville North high school, playing offense and defense and punting and kicking. In his senior season, he caught 53 passes for 762 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he recorded eight interceptions as a defender. He didn't receive an offer from Arizona (which saw his brothers graduate into NFL success), but he was able to land in the Big 12 with Kansas State.
Gronkowski redshirted as a freshman, then played three seasons as the starting fullback for the Wildcats. As you might expect from a fullback, he didn't produce much in the way of statistics, with 15 career receptions for 369 yards and five touchdowns. It should be noted, though, that nine of his catches went for 15 or more yards, and six of them were for 25 or more yards.
I can't do much justice to Gronkowski's personal background, so let Tyler Dunne's profile from The Buffalo News educate you. A marketing major, Gronkowski was always strong academically. He had a 4.0 GPA and was first-team All-Academic in college.
You might expect that another Gronkowski would have a strong athletic profile, and you're not that far off when it comes to this player. As a fullback or as a tight end, his measurements are generally above average. Standing 6'2" and 239 pounds, he's built more like an H-back than a tight end, so don't come in expecting him to box people out on pass routes. He has good agility, with a nice 7.10-second three-cone drill, and excellent short-area burst, showcased with his 10-foot broad jump and a 1.59-second 10-yard split.
One questionable area of Gronkowski's athletic abilities is his torso strength. He put up 17 bench press reps at the Combine, which was only in the seventh percentile for fullbacks (sixteenth for tight ends). With very short arms, the bench press should be an easier drill for him to complete, but that didn't show up in his results.
As a blocker, Gronkowski has a solid core, and he does a good job of driving into his opponent and creating space. He sometimes whiffs on his hand placement, grabbing only a piece of the opponent and failing to truly block them away. Gronkowski does have an understanding of how to disengage and move on to the second level for another block, but his timing isn't always in sync with the runner he needs to block for.
Gronkowski has good speed and movement for a fullback and could definitely be a target in the passing game. That said, he was rarely targeted in his college career. He needs to work on his timing and tracking of the ball when setting up for a catch, but might be able to be of use later in his career. After the catch, Gronkowski does a good enough job of earning extra yards and shrugging off possible tacklers, but he's not at all in the same territory as his brother.
'Goose' comes with a weighty reputation tied to his name, but it's unfair to compare him to his All-Pro brother. He doesn't play a valuable position, and he doesn't have much production to fall back onto. It's definitely possible that he isn't on the 53-man roster after training camp. To stick around, he'll have to justify a role on special teams, and perhaps outshine a player like Chris Gragg or Jerome Felton. That's more difficult than you'd think. Still, he's a Gronkowski. You don't want to count that one out.