For the third consecutive season to start his career Michael Pittman will be playing with a new QB. Despite this turnover he has shown meaningful improvement each season which has made him a popular breakout candidate and an early third round pick in best ball. There is a lot to like about Pittman’s potential for this year but there is also a serious opportunity cost to take him over the players that go near him in drafts.
Let’s take a closer look at his range of outcomes for 2022 to better understand if Pittman is a good bet at his current ADP.
Reasons to Draft Michael Pittman
Michael Pittman is a contender to lead the NFL in targets on what should at least be a decent offense. Matt Ryan may be past his prime but he is still an improvement over Carson Wentz from last year. I was actually surprised to learn just how effective Ryan was throwing intermediate passes in 2021. This fits well with Pittman’s skill set and I can already picture the play-action fakes to Jonathan Taylor opening up the middle of the field to create easy 10-20 yard throws to Pittman.
The Colts also have the roster, and play in an easy enough division, to see themselves as strong playoff contenders. Pittman is the clear top target in the offense but there is enough surrounding talent that opposing defenses can’t just gameplan to take him away. He graded really well on every short and intermediate route in Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception profile and is an underrated route runner. He also plays for a good coaching staff who should understand his strengths and how to use them. I can see why some people are all in on a Pittman breakout.
Michael Pittman Fantasy Upside Case
If Matt Ryan has a bounce back season it is almost inevitable that Pittman will be the main beneficiary. Ryan graded well when throwing from a clean pocket in 2021 which is notable because he is getting a significant offensive line upgrade this year. If better protection and upgraded weapons help boost Matt Ryan’s production in 2022 then Michael Pittman could be in for a career year. Despite the below average QB play last season he was able to put up a solid line of 88-1082-6 which was good for WR21 in cumulative scoring (half PPR).
I think it’s extremely likely that Pittman will eclipse 140 targets this year and in an upside case I could see him going over 160. That sort of volume should make him at least a low end WR1 for fantasy. Whether he becomes an elite player at the position will depend on how many TDs he scores. Touchdowns haven’t really been Pittman’s calling card throughout his career but he did have 11 as a senior at USC and we know TDs are a volatile stat so a spike year is very possible.
If the Colts offense is good and Matt Ryan plays better than last year I believe 10 TDs is a good upside case for Pittman. If he catches 100 passes and goes over 1,250 yards with those touchdowns that should allow him to challenge for top 5 at the position in a normal year.
Reasons to Avoid Michael Pittman
Pittman is an ascending player but there is a risk he continues to be held back by his situation. Matt Ryan’s last three seasons have been below his career averages for passer rating and yards per attempt. He also tied his career low with 20 TD passes in 2021 despite playing 17 games. Another down year from his QB could really limit Pittman’s production and make it difficult for him to justify his WR12 cost. I don’t like saying it but he could be on the Terry McLaurin career arc of a great football player who doesn’t quite live up to the hype in fantasy.
Additionally, Pittman goes in a tricky range of drafts where he rarely seems like the best player on the board in my opinion. He goes just after AJ Brown and Tee Higgins who I prefer over him and just before Mike Williams, DJ Moore, and Kyle Pitts who offer intriguing alternatives to Pittman. With so many talented pass catchers in this range it makes it difficult to consistently select Pittman which is why my personal exposure to him hovers right around the field average of 8%.
Michael Pittman Fantasy Downside Case
Unless Matt Ryan completely implodes I think Pittman is a safe bet to match his catch and yardage totals from last season on a per game basis. What I worry about most are his touchdown opportunities. Pittman only scored 6 times in 17 games last season and there is no reason for this offense to lean on anyone but Jonathan Taylor at the goal line. If Ryan struggles to create big plays for his receivers I wouldn’t be shocked to see Pittman disappoint in that category again. The lack of TDs kept him down at WR28 in per game scoring (half PPR) which is a realistic outcome for him again in 2022.
I do think Pittman has a higher floor in full PPR leagues so he is a better pick on platforms like DraftKings and Drafters. Ultimately, I do think he has the upside to justify his current cost even if he isn’t my favorite pick in that range.