In 2010 and 2011 Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew averaged 77 receptions on 118.5 targets for 749.5 yards and 4.5 touchdowns. Last year his numbers dropped to 59 receptions on 100 targets for 567 yards and three touchdowns. Expect the decline to continue in 2013.
Pettigrew missed two games last year with an ankle injury. His prorated numbers put him at 67.4 receptions on 114.3 targets for 648 yards and 3.4 touchdowns. He’s been a decent fantasy option the past three years, particularly in points-per-reception leagues.
I’m expecting a decrease in his targets this year, which will hurt his overall production.
Pettigrew is not an elite talent. He is more of an accumulator. Matthew Stafford set an NFL record last year with 727 pass attempts. In his monster 2011 campaign he attempted 663 passes.
He’s still going to air out, but even Drew Brees has only topped 660 pass attempts in only one season. I’m expecting around a nine percent decrease in attempts for Stafford, which would put him at 661.6 attempts.
The Lions brought in Reggie Bush. He’ll form a one-two punch in the running game with Mikel Leshoure to give Detroit a more balanced attack. Not only will it help the Lions control the time of possession, which keeps their defense off the field, but it will reduce the number of hits that Stafford takes. With fewer attempts, Pettigrew will see fewer balls come his way.
Bush will also cut into Pettigrew’s looks in the passing game. Pettigrew primarily was Stafford’s check down option. Now that he has Reggie Bush at his disposal, some of those looks will disappear. Pettigrew struggled with drops last year.
Plus, when he does catch the ball, he simply isn’t explosive. He ranked 83rd in the league with 246 yards after the catch. Bush, despite catching 24 fewer passes, had 290 yards after the catch. Pettigrew caught 59 percent of his targets. Bush caught 67.3 percent of his.
Bush has potential to be even greater as the Miami Dolphins underutilized him in the passing game. He averaged just 2.5 receptions per game for the Dolphins over the past two seasons. In five seasons with the Saints he averaged 4.9 receptions per game.
Joique Bell caught 52 passes for the Lions last year. I could see Bush catching at least 60 given his skill set. Bell and Pettigrew stand to lose the most looks to Bush.
The Lions figure to get more receptions out of receivers not named Calvin Johnson this year. Ryan Broyles should easily double his 22 receptions from last year.
Pettigrew has been the second option in Detroit the past three seasons. He could find himself as the fourth option behind Megatron, Bush and Broyles. Don’t look for Pettigrew to make up the difference with touchdown receptions. Despite a 6’5″, 265-pound frame, he has just 14 touchdowns in four seasons.
Pettigrew still has fantasy value, particularly during bye weeks, but his days of being a TE1 appear to be over.
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