If you want Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski this year, you have to be all in.
They won’t drop to the third round. It’s second round – sometimes even first round — or bust for the most dominant players at what has quickly become fantasy football’s scarcest position.
Graham is going 12th in mock drafts this summer. Let’s take a moment to ruminate on this. A tight end is being selected at the end of the first round. This should shake the foundation on which you’ve built your worldview.
Gronk isn’t far behind Graham, with an average draft position of 14.
These freaks, like Megatron, are in a rankings tier of their own. Draft them only if you like tight ends who can put up elite wide receiver numbers.
For the purposes of this exercise, I’m going to assume you’ve missed out on Graham and Gronk, unwilling to burn a top-15 pick on the tight ends who would have been top-3 fantasy scorers at their position if they had not scored a single touchdown in 2011.
Now you’ve waited until the 7th round, you’re still without a tight end, and Jermichael Finley, Aaron Hernandez, Antonio Gates, Vernon Davis and other tight ends not named Graham or Gronkowski are firmly planted in your rivals’ lineups.
Here’s what you do: draft Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew.
But first, you must come to grips with the First Rule of Owning Brandon Pettigrew: he’s not sexy. In fact, he’s the opposite of sexy. It’s not Pettigrew’s bearded mug and coiffed faux-hawk I speak of, but his on-field play. I watched a lot of Lions football last season, as any faithful Matthew Stafford owner would. When Megatron wasn’t humiliating defenders and Nate Burleson wasn’t stumbling along the sideline on a would-be touchdown that would’ve won my fantasy match-up, Stafford was chucking it to his colossal tight end (standing 6’5” and weighing in at 265 lbs.) over the middle.
Pettigrew, reaping the benefits the NFL’s pass happiest offense, saw 19 percent of Stafford’s targets in 2011, only 1 percent lower than the mighty Gronk saw from Tom Brady, and 4 percent less than Graham saw from Drew Brees.
Pettigrew was targeted 10 or more times in five games last season, and racked up more catches (83) than Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Aaron Hernandez. In fact, Stafford targeted his tight end 126 times last season, two more than Gronkowski.
Pettigrew displayed reliable hands, snagging 66 percent of the footballs tossed his way, matching Graham. The Lions tight end ended 2011 with a flourish, reeling in 21 passes for 249 yards against the Raiders, Chargers, and Packers.
Now back to Pettigrew’s sexiness deficit.
His 9.4 yards per catch average ranked 29th among the 30 tight ends with 30 receptions in 2011. In other words, Pettigrew catches the pigskin, turns, and goes down. The big man isn’t shifty, he doesn’t shed tacklers, and he can’t outrun the left guard. The good old-fashioned eye test will tell you as much. Pettigrew gobbles up Stafford’s underneath throws, and quicker, fleeter defenders descend on the lumbering load.
And that, fake footballers, is why Pettigrew is going 87th in mock drafts. That’s a reasonable ADP, I think, but if he falls any lower, he could be a sneaky value pick on draft day. No matter how utterly unsexy Pettigrew is this year, he’ll be in a pass-first offense led by a rifle-armed quarterback and Megatron emptying the middle of the field by drawing all manner of excessive coverages over the top.
Pettigrew will have his chances. And at the very least, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz has paid a lot of lip service to getting the rock in Pettigrew’s paws.
“I don’t want to say we’re just scratching the surface, but there’s still a lot left that he can give and a lot more that our offense can do [with Pettigrew],” Schwartz said in an interview with MLive.com.
Pettigrew is no Jimmy Graham, and he’s certainly no Rob Gronkowski, but if – when, for most of you – you’re in a cold panic on draft day, praying to the various Fantasy Gods that you don’t end up with this year’s version of 2011 Owen Daniels, take a look at Pettigrew, his unsexy 9.4 yards per reception, and his very sexy 126 targets.