2021 Dynasty Football Profile: Michael Pittman

by Rob Lorge
Michael Pittman 2021 Dynasty Football

When we think about the 2020 NFL Draft wide receivers, the name Michael Pittman isn't likely the first one that comes to mind. Or the second or third. That’s fair. There were a lot of truly special receivers that came out of that class. This does not mean we should be forgetting about the Indianapolis Colts’ second-year receiver. His 2021 Dynasty Football Profile is still on the upswing.

Unfortunately, his rookie season didn’t go the way he, the Colts or Fantasy managers thought it would.

Alas, the number one rule in fantasy football is to never hold grudges.

Pittman didn’t work out last year. So what? That doesn’t mean we should be shying away from him in any start-up drafts or looking to cut bait yet.

Michael Pittman is extremely talented and he’s got a big-time opportunity in Indianapolis. His Dynasty value is still pointing upward and there are a lot of reasons to be excited about his future.

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2021 Dynasty Football Profile: Michael Pittman

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Carson Wentz

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Carson Wentz is a giant elephant in the room. We’re not going to ignore it; we cannot talk about Michael Pittman without also talking about Carson Wentz. After all, a wide receiver’s quarterback is his best weapon or his biggest deterrent. It’s not a secret, Carson Wentz was awful in 2020. If awful isn’t a bad enough word for you, I’m alright if you google awful synonyms until you find one that fits. Maybe you even need to use two or three. I get it. I won’t even dispute it, but that’s not who Carson Wentz always was.

The fifth-year quarterback strung together three very impressive seasons from 2017-2019. Even his rookie season in 2016, while it had some ups and downs like all rookie quarterbacks experience, showed a lot of promise. There was legitimate excitement around how Wentz played as a rookie and he followed that up with some really good football. From 2017-2019 the former North Dakota State signal-caller averaged 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His 16 per-game statistics were even better. Wentz missed three games in 2017 and five games in 2018. He averaged 2.025 touchdowns per game and .525 interceptions per game. These averages equal a 32-touchdown and eight-interception season.

Over those same three seasons, he averaged a completion percentage of 64.36%. He averaged 3,469.67 yards per season, but again his per-game averages were much better. Wentz’s per-game yardage total came out to 260.225 yards per game, which is good for 4,163.60 yards over 16-games. When you put it all together, we’re looking at a very effective quarterback. There’s no debate about it, there’s no denying it. From 2017-2020 Carson Wentz was very good at football.

So, now do we believe that in one calendar year Carson Wentz went from being a top-10 signal-caller to Brock Osweiler? I don’t believe that. We need to put his 2021 into perspective because even though he was terrible last year, context matters. It’s interesting because the vast majority of the fantasy world is on the Ezekiel Elliott train in 2021. This makes sense because context matters. This needs to apply to Carson Wentz too.

Miles Sanders, his starting running back missed four games. Jalen Reagor, the Eagles' first-round draft pick missed five. DeSean Jackson, one of their presumed starting wide receivers missed 11 games. Jackson’s planned running mate, Alshon Jeffery, missed nine games. Zach Ertz missed four games. Dallas Goedert missed five games. JJ Arcega-Whiteside has been a bust.

Brandon Brooks, a three-time pro bowler at guard missed the entire season. Andre Dillard, their first-round pick from the 2019 NFL draft and presumed left tackle, missed the entire season. Lane Johnson, a three-time pro bowler at right tackle missed nine games. Isaac Seumalo, one of their backup guards who became a starter because of the other injuries, missed seven games. Jason Peters missed eight games after signing following Brooks' injury. Context matters.

Carson Wentz was sacked 50 times in 2020, while Philip Rivers, the Colts starter from last year was sacked only 19 times. Context matters. Do I expect Carson Wentz to play at an MVP level as he did in 2017? No. Do I expect him to be a lot better than in 2020? Yes, I do. Trusting Michael Pittman’s Dynasty value also involves trusting Carson Wentz to a degree, but when you look at his career and the injuries he had to deal with on the offensive side of the ball, it’s fairly easy to chalk his 2020 season up to an outlier.

College Stats and Prospect Evaluation

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Michael Pittman absolutely dominated the Pac-12 his senior year. He put up a ridiculous stat-line of 101 catches, 1,275 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He had 176 catches in four seasons at USC and only dropped a total of five passes. For his college career, he averaged 14.7 YPC. After his senior year, he shot up draft boards and understandably so. He was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which is awarded to the best wide receiver in the country.

Michael Pittman is 6’4” and 223 pounds. As far as alpha receivers, he looks the part. His athletic testing looks like one too. The USC product compiled an 8.24 out of 10 RAS score, which is used to determine a prospect’s athletic traits based on his size and positions. The Indianapolis Colts liked what they saw from Michael Pittman, so much so they selected him before Jonathan Taylor. This provides some perspective as to what kind of prospect Pittman was viewed as coming out of USC as a senior.

The second-year receiver is a big target. He’s got above-average athleticism and a frame that will allow him to bully NFL cornerbacks. The USC product was widely believed to have some of the best set of hands in the 2020 receiver class. He did not drop anything in college. He was great in contested catch situations and earning yardage after the catch. And he widely viewed as a plus-route runner early in his career. The arrow was most definitely pointing up.

Keenan Allen and Michael Thomas were two of the more common player comparisons to Michael Pittman following his senior season. It's easy to see why when you look at the college stats and their strengths. Like Allen and Thomas, Pittman was also viewed as a savvy route runner with excellent hands. Thomas and Pittman have very similar body sizes. Comparisons only mean so much and they have to be taken with a grain of salt, but at the same time, we love to see Pittman being compared to those kinds of elite talents coming out of college.

Disappointing Rookie Season

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Again, context matters. The Colts were trying to get their third different starting quarterback in three years up to speed before Week One. Pittman and the Colts’ were trying, like every team, to deal with the training camp limitations the pandemic caused. Some players were able to handle that admirably, others did not. It shouldn’t be a knock on a player to say they need that practice time. Michael Pittman, like all the 2020 rookies, did not have the benefit of a typical off-season.

Pittman went on injured reserve after hurting his foot in Week Three. This caused him to miss three weeks. All in all, his rookie season wasn’t what he or anyone else was expecting. He finished with 61 targets and turned those in 40 catches, 503 yards, and a single score. His per-game averages equal a 49 catch, 619 yards, and one touchdown rookie campaign. It's not uncommon for rookie receivers to sometimes struggle. Jerry Jeudy did as well. Davante Adams is another name that comes to mind. There were a lot of abnormal circumstances that may have affected Pittman’s season and in the mid-season injury certainly didn’t help either. It’s important to keep all those things in mind when we’re evaluating the future prospects of a rookie. We don’t want to close the door too soon.

Moving Forward

What can we expect from Michael Pittman in 2021? The honest answer is we don’t fully know, but there’s a lot of reasons for optimism. The Colts didn’t add anyone to their wide receiver room. This means he has to compete with T.Y. Hilton, a receiver who is on the wrong side of 30 and whose play began to trend downward a few years ago already. The other two wide receivers are Parris Campbell who has been perpetually injured and Zach Pascal, who at this point can be best described as a journeyman receiver. Pittman is ideally an outside receiver, whereas Pascal and Campbell are best suited to play in the slot. Hilton has long been a deep-ball threat, but his size doesn’t allow him to be a target hog. The two tight ends are Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox. Needless to say, Pittman is not competing with much.

Carson Wentz has always preferred bigger targets. The two most targeted receivers in 2017 were Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz. Jeffery very much resembles Pittman in stature, standing 6’3” and 218 pounds. The same two guys were Wentz’s favorite targets in 2018 as well. In 2019, it was Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert leading the way. This likely bodes well for Jack Doyle or Mo Alie-Cox if one of them can separate, but Michael Pittman also benefits here. The USC product best fits the possession receiver, short-yardage and red-zone wide receiver role on this team and those roles could lead to a lot of looks from Carson Wentz.

On a per-game basis, Pittman was the second to only T.Y. Hilton in terms of targets in 2020. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see that switch in 2021 with Hilton being another year older, Pittman being another year more experienced and Wentz’s tendency to target bigger receivers. Targeting Michael Pittman in any Dynasty leagues at this time doesn’t cost too much. His disappointing rookie season has kept the cost low enough, but there’s a lot of upside to be had here.

Michael Pittman's Future Value

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The Colts traded for Carson Wentz with the belief and the hope that he’ll be their quarterback for many years to come. If he can get back to playing like he did in 2017-2019, he’ll do just that. Michael Pittman was drafted to be their No. 1 receiver and is identified by Kevin Hickey of ColtsWire.com as a second-year break-out candidate. T.Y. Hilton is 31 years old and on a one-year contract. Zach Pascal is also on a one-year contract. Parris Campbell has two years left on his rookie deal but hasn’t even played 10 games yet. Jack Doyle is also an aging veteran who likely isn’t long in Indianapolis.

When you put all of that together, it’s easy to see that if Pittman can seize the opportunity, he has a chance to grow with Carson Wentz at quarterback and become the unquestioned No. 1 option in the passing as early as 2022. I expect Hilton and Pittman to be the primary targets for Wentz this season, but it’s unlikely Hilton returns again. This means that if Pittman can play with the promise he showed as a senior in college, the Colts may very well be building their passing attack centered around him.

Michael Pittman is one of my favorite targets this off-season because the cost is cheap. The risk is minimal, but the upside and reward are sky-high. We shouldn’t be surprised if Michael Pittman puts up a Courtland Sutton-type of sophomore season. If that happens, I want him on my squad. And if it doesn’t happen, the cost of acquisition via trade or draft pick is minimal that it’s not going to hurt me from productively moving forward without him.

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1 comment

2021 Dynasty Football Profile: Jalen Hurts - Fantasy Six Pack June 25, 2021 - 7:31 am

[…] you want to know just how bad things were in Philly last year, take a look at the breakdown Rob wrote in his Michael Pittman profile piece, while talking about Carson […]


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