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NFL star Rob Gronkowski explains the pros and cons of fantasy football

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is no stranger to fantasy football. In his eighth NFL season, he is leading all tight ends in fantasy points per game in standard season-long settings and on “daily” fantasy platform FanDuel.

“He’s been the top tight end drafted [in season-long leagues] for years and years,” says Alex Rikleen, a fantasy sports writer for RotoWire, Yahoo, and other outlets.

Gronkowski was a natural fit as an endorser of daily fantasy sports platform DraftKings in 2015 and 2016. (He is no longer an official ambassador, but works with the company on occasional one-off projects.) Still, his views on fantasy football aren’t all glowing: the rise of fantasy has had pros and cons for NFL players, Gronkowski told Yahoo Finance in a recent visit.

“One hundred percent it helped out the league,” he says. “You know how much fan engagement there is? We got women, we got kids, we got parents, we got grandmas and grandpas, anyone, from all ages to all genders, people playing fantasy football and starting to learn the game. If you never knew the game of football, how it’s played, people understand fantasy though, to get the points, to get touchdowns.”

Rob Gronkowski in a 2015 ad for DraftKings. (Danny Hastings/DraftKings)
Rob Gronkowski in a 2015 ad for DraftKings. (Danny Hastings/DraftKings)

“It definitely does get annoying”

The general consensus on fantasy football, part of an estimated $15 billion overall fantasy sports industry in America, is that it has been a boon to the NFL. The thinking is that people who would not watch a certain game otherwise will now want to watch because they may have a player in the game on their fantasy roster.

But the popularity of fantasy has also led fantasy “owners” to complain on social media when a player they drafted underperforms or gets injured.

In 2011, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster got injured, and then tweeted, “4 those sincerely concerned, I’m doing ok & plan 2 B back by opening day. 4 those worried abt your fantasy team, u ppl are sick.”

More recently, Odell Beckham Jr., star receiver for the New York Giants, told fans, “I could care less about ur fantasy teams. This is my Real Life.”

Gronkowski acknowledges that part of fantasy, and says fantasy players should draft a new player quickly rather than waste time disparaging the real-life player.

“To an extent, it definitely does get annoying,” he says. “When people start ripping on you because there was an injury, I mean, that’s football, that’s part of the game, you can’t control that. That’s what they signed up for. And that’s also the challenge in fantasy, like, if your guy goes down, you should be able to maintain your roster. You should be able to know someone out there to go get off the street. So if you think about it, the head coach isn’t just dealing with the injury, the fantasy owner is too. They shouldn’t be complaining, they should go out and find another player like the head coach has to do.”

“Man, that dude’s just buying everything”

During his visit to Yahoo Finance to promote a new 3D emoji app, Gronkowski also discussed his approach to endorsement deals. And he is a player who has many.

Gronkowski has a Nike deal. He, along with Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, is the face of Dunkin’ Donuts; he has graced the cover of EA Sports game Madden ’17; he has endorsed DraftKings, Oberto jerky, and BodyArmor SuperDrink.

“I get a lot of things thrown at me on my plate,” he says. “You just want to do things that fit well, with good people around you, and that are fun to do.” Dunkin’ Donuts is a good example, he says: “It’s fun, New England, get the coffee, get the energy going.”

But for all his goofy humor and party-loving reputation, Gronkowski has earned a lot of attention for his smart financial strategy. He has said that he lives off only endorsement money, and saves all of his NFL salary. (His contract is worth a total $54 million.) He tells Yahoo Finance it’s all about smart spending.

“The more you’re an NFL player, the more you get it down, the more you can focus on other stuff,” he says. “That’s when I started really seeing it. The more years you’re in the league, you start seeing other players sometimes, I’m like, ‘Man, that dude’s just buying everything. Everything! He’s got five cars, he’s got this house already, and I’m sitting there, I still got my one car I had back in the day.’ Now I understand those stories about some athletes… You just want to be comfortable. I’m comfortable with just having something just easy to get along, and be comfortable down the road too.”

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite. Sportsbook is our sports business video series and podcast.

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