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Rob Gronkowski zeroing in on top spot of Tom Brady’s list of all-time favorite targets

10.17.16 at 12:37 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski has caught more passes from Tom Brady than anyone other than Wes Welker. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski has caught more passes from Tom Brady than anyone other than Wes Welker. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

We have tracked Tom Brady’s big board of favorite receivers several times over the last few years, but with Rob Gronkowski continuing to move up the list and Julian Edelman landing in the top 5 this year, we figured it would be a good time to revisit the latest totals. As always, we have to point out that these are not career totals, but only catches from Brady during regular-season contests:

Most catches from Brady, regular-season games only:
1. Wes Welker (563 catches in 78 career regular-season games with Brady)
2. Rob Gronkowski (391 catches in 82 games)
3. Deion Branch (328 catches in 89 games)
4. Julian Edelman (327 catches in 89 games)
5. Troy Brown (323 catches in 84 games)
6. Kevin Faulk (310 catches in 117 games)
7. Randy Moss (192 catches in 36 games)
8. Aaron Hernandez (175 catches in 38 games)
9. David Givens (158 catches in 53 career games with Brady)
10. David Patten (157 catches in 54 games)

Here’s the rest of the top 20:

11. Danny Amendola, 144 catches. 12. Ben Watson, 142. 13. Daniel Graham, 117. 14. Brandon LaFell, 107. 15. Shane Vereen, 106. 16. Danny Woodhead, 92. 17. Christian Fauria, 79. 18. Brandon Lloyd, 74. 19. James White, 65. 20. Antowain Smith, 64.

Five thoughts on the list:

1. Other than Gronkowski, the top 6 consists of only smallish, “make-you-miss” guys who had the sort of field awareness to understand what the quarterback needed and when, particularly when it came to reaching the sticks. Says something about the comfort level Brady has with some of those guys, especially Welker. Of course, in the rush to praise Gronkowski, it’s easy to dismiss Welker and his tremendous run, but it’s even more amazing to consider that Welker lost almost a full season with Brady (2008) because of the QB’s knee injury. Welker is already head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pack. If the two were able to stick on another 80-catch season, it’s unfathomable what they might have been able to accomplish.

2. That being said, can Gronkowski pass Welker? Going into Week Six, he’s 172 catches off Welker’s mark. If he can finish this season with somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 catches (an eminently reachable goal, considering his slow start), that would give him 453 at the end of the 2016 season — 110 shy of Welker’s mark. If he and Brady stay healthy, he could pass Welker somewhere toward the middle of the 2018 season.

3. In such a short span (36 games, the fewest in the top 10), Moss’ numbers are ridiculous. If he had all of 2008 with Brady, and found a way to work before his 2010 trade, he could have certainly landed in the top 5.

4. Amendola has gotten off to a slow start, but he should almost certainly break into the top 10, and could climb as high as No. 9 before the end of the season. White is the latest name to land in the top 20, thanks in large part to his nice day Sunday against the Bengals. He’s one of four “third-down backs” who have reached the top 20.

5. The guys who are on the active roster now who are closest to the top 20? Running back Dion Lewis has 49 catches, while tight end Martellus Bennett is already up to 11 in two games with Brady. One guy who just missed out was Aaron Dobson — the wide receiver who was cut loose this season had 53 catches from Brady in his three seasons with New England.

Read More: Julian Edelman, Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady

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