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Jonathan Bales | Archive | Email | Twitter
Staff Writer

The Value of Brandon Pettigrew

Jonathan Bales is the founder of and writes for the New York Times and Dallas Cowboys. He’s the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.

In my last article at FF Today, I projected tight end yards using a regression of yards-per-catch. One of the big winners in those projections was Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew soared in the rankings for two reasons.

First, I projected Pettigrew to haul in 90 receptions. That number is so high because I anticipate defenses playing a whole lot of Cover 2 to halt Calvin Johnson, leaving Pettigrew open underneath. Pettigrew garnered 126 targets last year. That’s a lot, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect him to match that figure or even surpass it in 2012. Plus, Pettigrew’s catch rate of 65.9% is definitely repeatable.

Second, Pettigrew’s YPC will almost assuredly be higher than the 9.4 number he posted in 2011. Using his career YPC totals as a baseline, I projected Pettigrew to post 10.4 YPC in 2012. The guys here at FF Today are thinking something similar, projecting him at 10.6 YPC. If the Lions send Pettigrew vertical to combat the major weakness in Cover 2—the middle of the field—he’ll generate even greater YPC.

I didn’t get into touchdowns in my tight end article, but there’s a lot of room for improvement for Pettigrew in that area. He posted a career-high five scores last year. Megatron is obviously Detroit’s top red zone threat, but who is second? Running back Mikel Leshoure might get some looks, but its unlikely Pettigrew will lose many red zone targets to Titus Young or Jahvid Best. Thus, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect at least six, and possibly eight or nine touchdowns from Pettigrew.

The top reason Pettigrew offers so much value in 2012 is his low average draft position. Take a look at this. . .

You can see Pettigrew is getting taken around the ninth round—a full round behind Jacob Tamme. That’s ludicrous. Pettigrew is currently being drafted as the 10th tight end in 2012 when he should really be closer to fifth.

If you miss out on one of the top-tier tight ends early in the draft, hold your horses and pull the trigger on Pettigrew in the eighth round. He’s a surefire No. 1 tight end and has top five overall potential. He’s one of the rare mid-round picks that offers intriguing upside without a dramatically low floor.