Instead of following the recent trend of tight ends concentrating primarily on running crisp routes and stretching the field, Pettigrew embraces the blocking aspect of the position.
At 6-foot-6, 263 pounds, Pettigrew represents a blend of an extremely physical nature to go with the athleticism and soft hands that NFL teams covet.
"To me, Pettigrew’s a throwback to the old tight ends that could do it all because he cares about his blocking," retired NFL scout Tom Marino, a Scout.com draft analyst, said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "He’s a very talented guy, the only complete tight end in the draft. I don’t know why they call those other slot receivers tight ends because they couldn’t or wouldn’t block a soul. He’s got a big-league body. If you need a tight end, you can’t go wrong with him."
"Pettigrew can play at the line of scrimmage. When the spirit moves him, he’s pretty darn good. He’s got a nice base for contact to sustain blocks. He stays on his feet and drives people off the ball. He’s got some very good receiving threat dimensions to him. He’s very dependable and he’s got a little savvy about him. He’s easily the best tight end in the draft."
Pettigrew is considered to be a strong potential target for the Ravens, who had him in for an official visit to their training complex this month. Team officials are very high on Pettigrew and are likely to give him heavy consideration with the 26th overall pick of the first round.
"Being a complete tight end, that’s a big deal to me," Pettigrew said during a press conference at the NFL scouting combine. "I like to do both, block and catch. Blocking is such an important part of the game. I think that does set me apart. I try to be the most complete tight end that I can be."
Pettigrew’s versatility as a blocker and a receiver have drawn the attention of several NFL teams, taking visits with the Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bills are mulling over whether to take Pettigrew as high as the 11th pick, but that would probably be considered a bit of a reach. The Eagles’ 21st overall pick and the Falcons’ 24th overall selection are two other potential landing spots. Pettigrew is unlikely to last until the Bills’ 28th overall pick acquired from the Eagles in the Jason Peters trade.
Although the Ravens have veteran tight ends Todd Heap and L.J. Smith under contract, both players have extensive injury histories and it’s regarded as unlikely that Baltimore would pass up a chance to draft an all-around talent like Pettigrew and groom him behind Heap and Smith for one season.
"It would be safe to say there is extreme interest on the Ravens’ part in Brandon, but there’s also extreme interest that’s higher than the 26th pick," said Sean Howard, Pettigrew’s agent. "Anything can happen in the draft, and Baltimore would be an outstanding opportunity. It would be a phenomenal fit where he could learn from Heap and Smith.
"He thoroughly enjoyed his visit, loved the facility and going to Baltimore would be a great place for him because they’re building a young nucleus there with Joe Flacco. He’s an all-around tight end. He’s the complete package. He’s excited about the opportunity."
Pettigrew does have a character issue in his past, though.
Pettigrew was arrested at a party in Oklahoma in January of 2008 and was charged with felony assault and battery on a police officer and public intoxication. He allegedly elbowed an officer in the chest, but agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors where he was convicted of misdemeanor battery and assault and public intoxication and received a year of probation.
"I made a mistake that I wish I could take back," Pettigrew said. "I wasn’t thinking at all. It was out of character."
A soft-spoken native of Tyler, Texas, Pettigrew has an otherwise unblemished reputation.
"I think it was an isolated incident," Marino said. "I don’t think it’s a red flag. Nobody’s perfect, but my understanding of Pettigrew is that he’s a good kid who made one mistake and learned from it."
Added Howard: "He’s a very humble small-town kid who deflects attention to his teammates. In terms of football, he’s a fiery, hard-working kid. He’s quite the leader. He shies away from the spotlight and likes to bounce praise and focus to others."
Pettigrew lacks ideal stopwatch speed with a 4.83 clocking in the 40-yard dash at the combine, and a hamstring injury has hampered him all spring.
"I’m a lot faster than what they think I am," Pettigrew said.
Pettigrew excelled against elite competition in the Big 12 Conference and caught 112 career passes for 1,450 yards and nine touchdowns. Eight of his 43 career knockdown block led to touchdowns.
As a senior, Pettigrew caught 42 passes for 472 yards with no touchdowns.
He’s hard for a quarterback to miss downfield and has shown the ability to avoid defenders in the open field or run them over.
"The thing I love about Pettigrew is he helps you in both phases of the game," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "He’s the best run blocking tight end in this draft, and he’s a better receiver than many people give him credit for. He ran 4.8 at the combine, but he can run faster than that.
"He creates separation because he’s athletic and by using his size and he’s got great hands. So, I look at him and say, ‘How early could he go? Would he go 11 to Buffalo?’ Probably not, but I think he’s going to go somewhere in the 20s. I don’t think he can get past Atlanta at No. 24."
NOTES: There are multiple second-round or third-round tight end options, including: South Carolina’s Jared Cook, Florida’s Cornelius Ingram and Southern Miss’ Shawn Nelson. Cook had a formal interview with the Ravens at the combine. Cook is a 6-5, 246-pound converted wide receiver with 4.50 speed and a 41-inch vertical leap. "That kid can run like a deer," Marino said. … Ingram, who had a private workout for Baltimore, has great athleticism as a former Gators basketball player, but his knee injury is a cause for concern after being sidelined all of last year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. A former quarterback recruit, Ingram caught 34 passes for 508 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior. "I would be very worried about his ability to pass an NFL physical," Marino said. … Nelson is a 6-5, 240-pound versatile tight end with 4.56 speed and 157 career receptions for 2,054 yards and 16 touchdowns. His blocking and intensity are question marks. "Nelson is pretty damn good," Marino said. "He’s a combination guy, not an outstanding blocker, but he gets in people’s way. And he runs pretty well." … Missouri tight end Chase Coffman, the son of former Green Bay Packers tight end Paul Coffman, is ultra-productive with 247 career receptions for 2,659 yards and 30 touchdowns, but is very slow with 4.9 speed and isn’t much of a blocker. "The guy has great hands, but he’s coming off a foot injury and he can’t run at all," Marino said. "He catches everything, but he goes nowhere after the catch." … Rice’s James Casey is an athletic former Chicago White Sox minor league pitcher who has been rising on draft boards. … East Carolina tight end Davon Drew is considered a sleeper. "He would be a steal in the fourth or fifth round," Marino said. "He’s a really, really smart kid, a former quarterback who understands the game and can do a lot of things."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.