Is Ed Dickson a Suddenly Viable Fantasy Football Option?

Baltimore Ravens tight end Ed Dickson
Baltimore Ravens tight end Ed Dickson
Nov 11 2012 Baltimore MD USA Baltimore Ravens tight end Ed Dickson 84 catches a pass as Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Philip Wheeler 52 defends in the first quarter at MT Bank Stadium James Lang USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, as a fantasy football commodity, has been removed from store shelves for the 2013 regular season.

Pitta, fantasy’s seventh highest scoring tight end in 2012, fractured his hip July 27 at Ravens’ training camp – an injury that some beat writers have called career threatening.

It’s all very sad, from the humanity of a burgeoning stud suffering a horrific injury in a contract year, to a fantasy football efficiency machine being eliminated from our draft boards in the blink of an eye – or a break of a bone. Whatever you prefer.

Pitta was a fantasy points per route run (FPPRR) superhuman in 2012, posting a season-long .27 FPPRR. He ranked among fantasy’s best tight end options despite failing to crack the top-18 in pass routes run.

Tony Scheffler, Tony Moeaki, and Brent Celek, believe it or not, ran more routes than Pitta in 2012.

The FPPRR metric is created with Pro Football Focus’s route running data from 2008-2012.

Read more about how the FPPRR metric can prove useful in 2013…
Matt Forte: Marc Trestman and the FPPRR Effect
Finding Predictability in Tight End Route Running

The question burning in your degenerate mind should be this: who inherits Pitta’s targets this season? The answer most certainly would’ve been Anquan Boldin, had he stayed in Baltimore. Boldin and Pitta, in fact, occupied almost identical roles in the Ravens’ 2012 offense, essentially alternating big games throughout the year.

Ray Rice and Torrey Smith should certainly benefit from Pitta’s absence. Rice could suddenly be a viable candidate for 70 receptions, as it would make perfect sense for the pass-catching dynamo to absorb some of the underneath throws slated to come Pitta’s way.

But I digress.

I’m most interested in Ed Dickson, the third year tight end out of the University of Oregon, who, just two short seasons ago, racked up 54 receptions on 85 targets from Joe Flacco. Only 14 tight ends were targeted more in 2011.

Here’s a quick look at Dickson’s FPPRR production since he entered the league.

Year Pass Routes Run Fantasy Points FPPRR
2010 121 21.2 .18
2011 473 82.8 .18
2012 201 22.5 .11

As we look for FPPRR measurements that match or exceed .21, Dickson isn’t anything close to impressive on a per-route basis.

It’s not like we haven’t seen Dickson run a full complement of routes; he ran 473 routes in 2011, when he served as Baltimore’s primary tight end. Only 10 tight ends ran more pass routes that year.

I’d expect, if Dickson takes a role similar to Pitta’s from 2012, that the .18 FPPRR will rise, since Pitta served as a more prominent part of the Ravens’ offense last season than Dickson did in 2011.

It should be noted that, even before Pitta’s training camp apocalypse, Dickson drew rave reviews from Ravens’ coaches and beat writers.

“Ed has been playing and performing extremely well,” Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said shortly after Pitta was carted off the practice field. “He’s had a good camp thus far. He certainly ended up the spring in great shape. He’s moving well. He’s been catching the ball for us. And he has a lot of big play potential.”

rotoViz’s efficiency app, which measures production between a quarterback and his pass catchers, offers less-than-pleasing news for anyone pegging Dickson as a Pitta fill-in with top-12 fantasy potential.

Flacco has averaged a measly 5.5 adjusted yards per attempts (AYA) while Pitta posted a sterling 7.4 AYA with the Ravens’ signal caller.

Chemistry shouldn’t be overlooked here. Reporters covering the Raven’s offseason workouts wrote that Flacco was simply playing catch with Pitta during these practices. Flacco’s comfort level with Pitta, just as it was through large swaths of the 2012 season, was evident to anyone with two eyeballs.

Dickson, if he posts the magical .21 FPPRR that denotes worthy fantasy commodities, should score around 85 point in standard fantasy leagues, making him a top-15 tight end with room to grow. He showed off his potential in Week 9 of the 2011 season, as he scorched the Seattle Seahawks for 10 receptions on 14 targets for 79 yards and two scores. Seattle, for what it’s worth, was average in their defense of tight ends that season.

Even the most optimistic Dickson apologist should acknowledge that he became the team’s No. 2 tight end option for a reason — maybe several reasons.

“I think Dickson was already carrying high expectations to handle some of Boldin’s load and now those expectations are even higher with Pitta’s injury,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun. “I love Dickson’s athleticism. He just needs to continue to improve as a route runner and consistent pass catcher. Those are areas where Pitta had a distinct advantage.”

I’ve added Dickson to my ever-expanding list of streamable late-round tight end options. Like the others, he probably shouldn’t be relied upon as an every-week plug-and-play fantasy starter. Dickson, as of this writing, is not among the top-30 tight ends off the draft board.

I wouldn’t expect him to rise beyond a 12th round flier by late August.

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C.D. Carter Fantasy Football Analyst
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.