by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Ravens Dennis Pitta missed the bulk of 2013 due to surgery on his hip, though catching 20 passes over the final four games does give us reason for optimism. Though he managed just 169 yards and 1 TD, he was still a constant focus of the offense (33 targets).
With Gary Kubiak now tasked with offensive coordinator duties, that role may increase even more. According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (click here for the article):
“Signed to a five-year, $32 million contract in March, the tight end is expected to have a versatile role in new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s offensive system. That includes everything from Pitta being split out as an extra wide receiver to working out of the backfield as well as traditional in-line tight end alignments.”
We’ve seen tight ends thrive in Kubiak’s system, including Owen Daniels who also joined the Ravens in the offseason. Of course, while Daniels could pose a threat to some of Pitta’s touches he needs to stay healthy in order to do that. Daniels hasn’t played a full season since 2008, with two years of 15 games played and a total of 26 missed. While he gives the Ravens another option, and a player familiar with the system who can help Pitta develop, it’s hard to envision him as a major threat.
The team also spent a third round pick on Crockett Gallimore, though he was viewed as more of a project coming out of the draft.
That leaves Pitta, who caught 61 passes for 669 yards and 7 TD in 2012, as the beneficiary of the new regime. The team did improve the receiving corps, with the addition of Steve Smith, but as long as Pitta is on the field it’s easy to dream of what is possible.
At 6’4″ and 245 pounds, he easily represents the best red zone threat the team has. Torrey Smith has consistently proven to be more of a boom or bust receiver, incapable of being a consistent threat on a week-to-week basis. Steve Smith is now 35-years old and stands 5’9″. That’s not to say that he can’t score, but he has 4 TD or fewer in three of the past four seasons. Whose left, Jacoby Jones?
Marlon Brown could be that guy, at 6’5″ and coming off a year where he scored 7 TD. He clearly has tremendous upside and is worth keeping close tabs on, but it’s hard to imagine Pitta not playing the role.
With the new system in place and an expanded role there for the taking, there’s an awful lot to like about Pitta moving forward. Once the top names are off the board, Pitta has as much upside potential as anyone and is well worth targeting (we will be updating our TE rankings tomorrow, showing Pitta’s new spot among the Top 10).
Sources – ESPN, Baltimore Sun
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Make sure to check out all of our 2014 rankings: