By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — There’s no offensive force in the NFL quite like Rob Gronkowski. And as a token of their respect for the man known as Gronk, NFL players voted the Patriots’ tight end as the 15th-best player (and the No. 1 tight end) in the NFL in 2018.

NFL Network has been releasing bits of the list over what feels like the past few months, but on Monday released No. 20-11. Gronkowski landed right in the middle.

Interestingly enough, Gronkowski is the first Patriots player to show up on this year’s list. Despite being the two-time defending AFC champions, the Patriots don’t have many good players on their roster, according to NFL players. Weird list!

Anyhoo.

Last year, Gronkowski ranked first among tight ends in receiving yards, despite playing just 14 games and getting zero targets in the team’s regular-season finale. He earned First Team All-Pro honors for the fourth time of his career.

It’s Gronkowski’s seventh straight year on the NFL’s Top 100 list and the fifth time he’s been chosen as the best tight end in the sport. Here are his previous rankings, which have varied as he’s dealt with different injuries:

2012: 21
2013: 25
2014: 41
2015: 10
2016: 9
2017: 23
2018: 15

In the video accompanying the Gronkowski spot, it was noteworthy that Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander offered his praise of Gronkowski. Considering Gronkowski’s most recent history with the Bills is pretty bad, Alexander may have some unhappy teammates waiting for him in Orchard Park.

Nevertheless, Alexander couldn’t help but gleefully recall the time in 2014 when Gronkowski blocked Sergio Brown and then “threw him out the club.”

“Yeah yeah yeah. He had tennis shoes on and was trying to get in [the club],” Alexander said. “That’s not allowed.”

Former Gronkowski teammate Chandler Jones also shared some praise of Gronkowski for his role as a blocker, in addition to his obvious receiving skills.

Ranking ahead of Gronkowski were:

14. Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell
13. Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins
12. Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly
11. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson

You could probably get upset about such things if you were so inclined. At the same time, Luke Kuechly is probably the Rob Gronkowski of defense. Russell Wilson was literally the only offensive player on his team last year. DeAndre Hopkins had 1,378 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. Calais Campbell is the largest human being on earth.

They’re all pretty impactful players. Presumably, there will be some gripes about whoever ends up in the top 10, which will be revealed next Monday night and will include the man who throws the football to Gronkowski, one Mr. Tom Brady. (Brady was No. 1 last year.) And when you look at certain individuals, like we just did above, you can understand why and how some guys end up higher than some other guys. There are only so many spots.

But, as anybody who watched the game-winning drive in Pittsburgh and the opening drive of the Super Bowl’s second half against the Eagles can attest, there is no stopping Gronkowski when he is operating at max capacity.

When the Patriots trailed by five in a critical conference showdown in Pittsburgh in December, here’s how the drive went:

Incompletion to Rob Gronkowski

Completion to Rob Gronkowski, deep middle, 26 yards

Completion to Rob Gronkowski, deep middle, 26 yards

Completion to Rob Gronkowski, deep right, 17 yards

Rush by Dion Lewis, 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN

Two-point attempt: Completion to Rob Gronkowski

And here’s how the Patriots came out of halftime against the Eagles, when they trailed by 10 points:

Incompletion to Rob Gronkowski

Completion to Rob Gronkowski, deep right, 25 yards

Completion to Rob Gronkowski, deep right, 24 yards

James White rush, 4 yards

Incompletion to James Develin

Completion to Rob Gronkowski, short left, 14 yards

James White rush, 3 yards

Completion to Rob Gronkowski, 5 yards, TOUCHDOWN

There’s just no player like that in football. So maybe he ranks at 15, because of this, that, or the other thing. But when he’s healthy and he’s dominating, he sure looks like the best player in football.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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