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Player Spotlight: Dennis Pitta

A detailed look at Dennis Pitta's fantasy prospects for 2013

Dennis Pitta not only has separated away from Ed Dickson as Baltimore's top tight end last season, he essentially has become the second target for Joe Flacco entering 2013. Anquan Boldin was that second option for the Ravens during their Super Bowl run last year, but now he has been traded to San Francisco (who desperately needs him now). That opens up the door for someone in Baltimore to not just start at the second wide receiver position but also to emerge as the possession receiver who will get a ton of targets from Flacco.

Anquan Boldin's numbers have to be replaced for 2013. Many fans will be focused on the likely battle for the WR2 spot for the Ravens during training camp come July and August, but that might be the full story behind what will likely happen to the Baltimore passing attack this coming season. Even if Jacoby Jones can hold off second year players Jacoby Jones and Deonte Thompson to start opposite of Torrey Smith, that does not mean that Jones (or any other wideout) will see as many targets as Dennis Pitta. Pitta was a star for the Ravens last postseason, scoring three touchdowns in four playoff games on a remarkable run by Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory. Pitta and Flacco are close friends, and that friendship has migrated onto the field where Flacco now looks to Pitta in key passing situations. That should only continue further this year with Boldin's departure to San Francisco.

Let's look at some numbers for a minute. Last year, Pitta saw 94 targets during the regular season, catching about two-thirds of them (61 of 94) for 669 yards and seven touchdowns -- and that does not even include his postseason numbers (14-163-3). While it may sound dangerous to consider his 2012 as a baseline or floor for his production (he finished as TE7 in standard scoring, TE8 in PPR), let's look at the entire passing attack for the Ravens in 2012. Flacco threw over 500 times, with about 25% going towards Anquan Boldin (129 targets, 65-921-4). That put Boldin as a solid WR3 in most fantasy leagues, but now Boldin is gone, and those 129 targets have to go somewhere else. Even if Flacco drops to 450 attempts, that is roughly 110 targets that go to either Jacoby Jones, Torrey Smith, Pitta or Dickson. I would think about 30% at a minimum goes towards Pitta, which should give him at least 33 more targets this season.

So, even though I am calling for a major uptick in Pitta, I actually think I am being conservative with my numbers. Pitta should see -- at a minimum -- 127 targets this year and catch about 65% of those balls that come his way. Even if he drops his yards per catch from over 11 last year to right around 10, that would give him 82 receptions for 820 yards. Going even more conservative, I would say even with just six touchdowns (one less than last year) he would have a floor for me of about 80-800-6, which would project him easily as a Top 5 tight end this year in all formats. I actually think he will be more like 80-900-8 this year, which might sound crazy or unrealistic until you see that Flacco will throw 500 times, and Pitta and Torrey Smith will dominate the targets this year. Even if you draft Pitta as the sixth tight end in your fantasy draft, I think there is still upside.

POSITIVES

  • Pitta is the clear top tight end for Baltimore, eclipsing Ed Dickson last year as the far better option and preferred target
  • With the departure of Anquan Boldin (San Francisco 49ers), the Ravens and Joe Flacco need a reliable target to work short and intermediate passing routes.  That should be Pitta far more often than not.
  • The leading WR2 options (Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson) are all question marks at best, giving more evidence to an uptick for Pitta this season
  • Pitta is in a contract year, which should add extra motivation for him to post career-best numbers
  • Flacco and Pitta are close friends on and off the field, which always helps when it comes to crunch time. In key situations, Pitta will often be the primary receiver this year
  • Baltimore's defense has seen some departures (Ed Reed) and retirements (Ray Lewis), making an average unit even more questionable. That could lead to more high scoring contests, which makes for more passing numbers overall

NEGATIVES

  • As the probable second target, Pitta will face tougher coverage this season from defenses, which could limit his ability to get open and separate down the field
  • With two strong running backs (Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce), the Ravens may opt to run the ball far more than expected and more than in 2012 – limiting the passing game upside for Baltimore
  • Should Jacoby Jones or another wideout emerge, Pitta could drop down in the pecking order for targets

FINAL THOUGHTS

I have always liked Dennis Pitta, ever since the Ravens plucked him from BYU. Even back in college, Pitta had strong receiving numbers, where he set BYU records for career receptions (221) by any Cougar, plus finished as the top career tight end for receiving yards and had the best tight end season for any BYU tight end in school history. With 21 career touchdowns in BYU, the tea leaves were there to read for anyone who wanted to dig up his numbers and compare them to Ed Dickson.  Pitta is far better than Dickson as a move tight end, whereas Dickson is better utilized as a classic player at the end of the offensive line. That fits perfectly for the Ravens in 2013, as Pitta can play the slot or outside of Jacoby Jones in one- or two-TE formations. Pitta is the best player the Ravens have to replace Anquan Boldin's ability to run routes of 20 yards or less, while Torrey Smith can do deep and take the top off of the defense. Pitta should see a record number of targets for himself this year, especially on key third downs and passing downs where Joe Flacco will need a reliable option. Even with Pitta going in the TE5-8 range in many drafts, I see him as a relative value as a tight end that should post possession receiver-type numbers this year with well over 120 targets, leading to 80 catches, 900 yards and 7-8 touchdowns this season.


OTHER VIEWS


DENNIS PITTA PROJECTIONS

 

REC

RECYD

RECTD

RSHYD

RSHTD

Jeff Pasquino

80

900

8

0

0

David Dodds

64

698

6

0

0

Bob Henry

68

750

7

0

0

Jason Wood

58

640

5

0

0

Maurile Tremblay

58

629

6

0

0

Message board consensus

x

x

X

0

0


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