As you rigorously prepare and research leading up to each fantasy football season, sometimes it’s fun to take a step back and look towards the future of the NFL. This feature is going to do just that, and while its focus won’t be fantasy related, maybe it sparks some thoughts for those of you pondering a keeper league strategy or something of that nature. The idea is simple: rank the top trade assets in the NFL (only including players at the skill positions on offense: QB/WR/RB/TE). Again, this has nothing to do with fantasy trades, this is in terms of how valuable these players are to their actual teams in the longterm. Yes, this means names like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will be left off since it’s my list. I’m sure there will be plenty of debate, as everyone’s picks are likely different. So sit back, and enjoy the ride!

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No. 3: Rob Gronkowski — TE, New England Patriots

I get the feeling that I don’t even have to explain this one, but I don’t think the awesome team at the DK Playbook would appreciate if I just left this blank. It’s shocking that a tight end can come in this high on a list like this, but it’s Gronk’s world, we’re all just living in it. We’re three games into his sixth season as a pro, and you can make a completely legitimate argument that Gronk is already the greatest TE of all-time.

The always talkative Bill Belichick recently shared a story with the media about just how fortunate the Patriots are to have Gronk. When they selected him in the second-round of the 2010 draft, he was brought in to be a blocker. Aaron Hernandez, who was later selected in the fourth-round, was brought in to take care of the receiving aspect from the tight end position.

In Gronk’s first preseason game, he didn’t even see a target thrown his way. At his size, he was essentially thought of as an extra lineman. Belichick soon realized his own mistake and identified that he may have uncovered a hidden gem with the No. 42 pick. The rest is history, but the point of the story, believe it or not, is Gronk may be even more of a force as a run/pass blocker than he is as a receiver.

That’s pretty impressive considering his current career stats: 68 games, 324 receptions, 4,687 yards, 58 touchdowns — plus another rushing TD on his only career attempt (even more impressive considering his legendary party status).

Not bad for a guy that began his career as an afterthought in the passing game. 487 targets later, Gronk’s in the conversation for MVP, and certainly worthy of being a top-3 trade asset in the NFL.

But forget where he ranks on this list, I’ll just leave you with some reasons why Rob Gronkowski is already the greatest TE of all-time (and it won’t even be a debate by the time he’s done).

Find me on Twitter @julianedlow

See below for more features from “NFL Trade Assets.”

Honorable Mention: Jameis Winston/Amari Cooper

10. Cam Newton

9. Odell Beckham Jr.

8. Demaryius Thomas

7. Antonio Brown

6. Dez Bryant

5. Russell Wilson

4. Julio Jones