Why Gronk has a legit MVP case

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski leads the NFL with 248 receiving yards after contact. Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports

There's little debate that quarterback is the most critical position in football, as is evidenced in a number of ways (not the least of which is how starting quarterbacks are paid in free agency). As a result, the NFL's most valuable player award skews towards quarterbacks, who have won the award in 10 of the past 13 seasons (note: in 2003, Peyton Manning and Steve McNair shared the honor).

This year's most valuable player conversation will once again center largely around quarterbacks, with compelling cases to be made for both the Packers' Aaron Rodgers (whose flawless play at Lambeau Field has Green Bay in the mix for one of the NFC's top two playoff seeds) and Tom Brady, who has brushed off a slow start to lead the Patriots to a tie for the best record in the NFL at 11-3, while throwing 32 touchdowns, compared to just eight interceptions.

But there's another player who must be in this conversation, however unlikely it might be that he would actually win the award: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. No tight end has ever won the league's MVP, and there's no dismissing that Rodgers, Brady and others have been brilliant (Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt among them), but there's a compelling case to be made for the league's most dominant pass-catcher also being its most valuable player this season. Here's why.