Combine height: 6-5 3/8
Combine weight: 263 pounds
Combine 40 time: 4.85 seconds
Pettigrew caught 42 passes for 472 yards as a senior but failed to find the end zone. For his four-year career at Oklahoma State, Pettigrew recorded 112 receptions for 1,450 yards and nine touchdowns.
Widely regarded as the most complete tight end in this year’s draft, Pettigrew will be a Day One pick primarily because of his dominant blocking ability. He has prototypical size for an in-line tight end and has demonstrated the ability to block both on the line of scrimmage and at the second level. Even in high school when Pettigrew was an all-state performer, it was primarily because of his blocking ability. Not that he can’t catch; Pettigrew has good hands, uses his size and strength to create an opening in the secondary, and moves the pile after he makes the grab; according to NFL Draft Scout, more than 40 percent of Pettigrew’s yardage came after the catch.
The downside, and it may be more important to fantasy folks than NFL GMs, is that Pettigrew lacks top-end speed for a tight end. He won’t be the kind of receiver to stretch the field or threaten down the seam, so he doesn’t project to be a Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates type of impact fantasy player. Spending his career in a run-oriented offense in college, Pettigrew’s production was subdued and his development as a receiver stunted. That said, his blocking ability will get him on the field and his size will create mismatches with the defense to the point where Pettigrew could become a very good short- to intermediate range receiver in the NFL.
Tight ends—especially ones like Pettigrew who are more blocker than receiver—aren’t the sexiest of first-round picks. However, Pettigrew’s skills are such that he could go off the board as early as 11 to the Bills, who have a long-standing need at the position. The Broncos would also be a fit at 12, but they have too many defensive needs to consider another offensive player in the first round. Later on in Round One, the Patriots (23) and Falcons (24) would both benefit from a block-first tight end who could offer a short-range target. The Cardinals at 31 might not seem like the right fit, but Stephen Spach excelled in that role for them late last year prior to his knee injury, so it’s possible they could be interested in Pettigrew to take that job going forward. If Pettigrew somehow slides into the second round the Pats would have another crack at him with the Chiefs’ pick (34 overall), while the Rams and Browns could be in the market for a block-first tight end at 35 and 36, respectively. And should Pettigrew still be on the board at 42, there’s no way he would get past the Bills a second time.
The good news is, Pettigrew’s blocking skills and likely move to a team with a need at the position should translate to ample playing time as a rookie. The bad news is, just about everything else. First-round tight ends have a history of underwhelming from a fantasy standpoint, averaging 300 yards and less than two touchdowns in their inaugural NFL campaign—and those are guys drafted for their receiving acumen. The upside to Pettigrew’s first year, assuming he establishes himself as a short-yardage favorite, is something like Heath Miller’s 459 and six in 2005. That’s enough to get him drafted in many fantasy leagues, but it shouldn’t have him contending with Gates or Gonzo or even Jason Witten or Kellen Winslow.
From a dynasty league perspective, Pettigrew doesn’t offer the fantasy upside of the better pass-catchers at his position; guys like Jared Cook and Shawn Nelson, were they to land in the right situation, would be more inclined to put up Dustin Keller- or even Dallas Clark-type numbers. What Pettigrew does offer is stability, a guy who’s likely to be on the field in short-yardage situations because of his blocking ability and therefore a potential red-zone guy good for a steady diet of five or six scores per season. Those aren’t exactly jaw-dropping numbers, but a late pick on Pettigrew this year might allow you to forget about the tight end position for the next six years and focus your energies on the rest of your dynasty squad.