Over the past few seasons, do you fully understand how annoying the tight end position has been in fantasy football? I mean, seriously. From week-to-week inconsistency to injury galore, fantasy owners could really only rely on three or four tight ends over the past couple of years. And it seems like every year we see a new face rise up and climb up the leader boards among the position.
Last season, one of those very guys was Dennis Pitta. Coming off of a career year, Pitta had a lot going for him entering 2013, which resulted in many people being extremely high on him. Like I said, it was a breakout season for Pitta and with Anquan Boldin out of the picture, the usage is likely to only increase in 2013.
Well, was likely…
Alas, amid the handful of training camp injuries was Pitta. He dislocated his hip and has been ruled out for the entire 2013 season. If you know Denny Carter (C.D. Carter via the Twitter), you know as much as I do that he is crying in the shower as we speak. However, the show most go on, and with Pitta’s misfortune, fantasy owners have a new name to target among tight ends.
Ed Dickson is expected to slide into the number one tight end position for the Ravens. That alone makes him relevant in fantasy land, but where should this guy be ranked at his position? Going into this season, I had Pitta ranked as high as 6th among tight ends. I was very high on him because with Boldin gone, Pitta would rule the middle of the field, an area where he thrived a season ago. Via Pro Football Focus, Pitta ran 256 of his routes from the slot last year, which ranked 10th among tight ends. Boldin, meanwhile, ran 328 routes from the slot, ranking 11th among receivers. As Carter points out in an article praising Pitta (sorry, Denny), Boldin and Pitta often undermined each other. When one would post strong numbers, the other was nonexistent.
So, the real question is, should fantasy owners be as excited about Dickson as they were about Pitta?
I wouldn’t. Pitta is such a better route-runner and pass catcher than Dickson, so it’s difficult to just say that he will step in and produce right away. However, despite being known as more of a blocking tight end, Dickson has some skills in the passing game. In 2011, he was pretty relevant in some fantasy leagues, catching 54 balls for 528 yards and five scores. Dickson is a versatile talent with speed, and with the team signing veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, perhaps this allows Dickson to use that athleticism and line up in the slot more this season. That usage should result in a ton of targets. Keep in mind, during that 2011 season, Dickson was targeted a very healthy 85 times from quarterback Joe Flacco, which was 15th-most among tight ends. Often times last year, Flacco would look for Pitta a ton. His 93 targets ranked 10th-most at his position, and he also posted 10 games in which he was targeted at least five times last season. So, with Boldin out of the picture and Pitta sidelined with injury, Dickson clearly has opportunity to produce as at least a top-15 fantasy tight end. If he was targeted 85 times in 2011, when the team had much more weapons than they do now, why can’t he see 100 targets?
Lok, I’m certainly not saying that Dickson will produce like Pitta would if healthy. There was a certain connection that Flacco and Pitta had over the course of last season that simply won’t be there with Dickson. However, a guy who has proved he can serve as a pass-catcher playing with a quarterback who will target him, Dickson shouldn’t be overlooked as a strong fantasy tight end in 2013. While I think he can be productive, buyer beware. This is, after all, a guy with only 86 career catches.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.