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Michael Pittman: Overrated WR 1!?

Michael Pittman has been the WR1 for the Colts the last few seasons, but does he still have the potential to be a WR1 for our dynasty teams?

Michael Pittman has been a gift to many fantasy owners since coming into the league in 2020. Due to the lack of talent in Indianapolis, Pittman has been put into the WR1 role for the team. Pittman has had a new quarterback each season and is now fresh again with a young rookie this time. Can Pittman reach new levels, or is his production overrated?

Early Years

Pittman came into the league as a rookie, and everyone was on his game due to his big frame and big slot role ability. He had moments during the regular season, but it wasn’t until the first playoff game that he put up five receptions for 90 yards, and everyone was excited. He played with aging Phillip Rivers, and we knew he would have a new quarterback the following season. It’s important to know that Rivers had a 68% completion percentage that season.

In 2021, Pittman came with the most productive season of his fantasy career. He has 88 receptions for 1082 yards and six touchdowns on the passing from Carson Wentz. Wentz would have a 62% completion percentage that season, and Pittman’s catch rate would improve from 65% to 68%. Pittman would get off to a great start as the WR9 over the first nine games of the 2021 season. This was the best stretch of fantasy products he gave fantasy owners. For the rest of that 2021 season, he would go on to be a WR3 in fantasy football as Carson Wentz would decline as a passer and throw fewer attempts per game.

If we look at his efficiencies that season, he was 14th in target share but 71st in ADOT, 22nd in Fantasy Per Game, 37th in YPT, and 58th in YPR. This shows Pittman had the opportunity but poor throws to get him the ball in better situations. The reason is that Pittman could win against his defenders on 262 routes, which was 3rd best among receivers, and his win rate was 4th best, showing he could find a way to beat his defender often.

2022 Season

In 2022, Pittman got to work with another quarterback Matt Ryan. That was a disaster for Pittman’s season, as they only had three games over 15 fantasy points. He finished outside the top 36 players in 15 of 17 games. At the same time, he managed 141 targets and 99 receptions but only produced under 1000 yards and four touchdowns. Matt Ryan was playing short ball with the offense due to his lack of arm strength for his age. Matt Ryan was a major download to Pittman’s ability to perform at a WR1 level.

While Pittman was able to see another top-20 target share in the league, the rest of his numbers were poor due to bad quarterback play. He was 92nd in ADOT, 21st in Fantasy Per Game, 85th in YPT, and 98th in YPR. Pittman is a receiver that can find space in the middle of the field, but he needs a quarterback to get him the ball. He only had five targets of 20-plus yards on the season. There were too many short targets to minimal yardage, as Pittman only has two games over 80 receiving yards.

What’s New for 2023 

Pittman has a lot of changes in 2023, starting with his quarterback situation. Depending on Anthony Richardson‘s progress, Gardner Minshew may get the early season starts. In his early years, Minshew was a solid downfield throw that opened up the Jaguar’s offense. This could help benefit Pittman’s game to see more big-play opportunities than just 5-yard throws in an offense. Last season, Minshew, in two starts, gave AJ Brown and Devonta Smith a combined 426 receiving yards. This opportunity could help propel Pittman into early-season success. BUT! This situation is if Minshew starts.

The realistic possibility is that rookie Anthony Richardson could be the day-one starter. We know that Richardson is a raw prospect that needs to develop his mechanics as a passer. Richardson has the talent in his arm but doesn’t know how to control it yet. As we’ve seen other quarterbacks like Richardson, they take one to two seasons to be solid players.

Richardson is ready to take the steps like another raw or mobile prospects like Josh Allen, Justin Fields, Jalen Hurts, and Lamar Jackson. They all took two years until they reached a level of decent quarterback passing play in the NFL. Combined during all their times, they had just two barely 1000-yard receivers. If Pittman is stuck under Richardons for two more seasons, then barely breaking 1000 yards could be his game. Richardons will take throwing opportunities away to run the ball because he is dangerous that way.

The Colts have added offensive pieces in the last two years with Alec Pierce, Jelanie Woods, and Josh Downs. Pittman has been fantastic because he sees an excellent target share for his team. In the last two seasons, Pittman has averaged a 25% target share, while the next-best pass catcher has a 15% target share. Pittman has been the lead guy, but dropping from the 140 range to the 110/120 range could affect any potential shot of a high-end WR2 for fantasy.

Pittman is in a contract season, so it could push him to play his best football. We’ve seen players over-perform in contract seasons to give them a better new contract next time. The 2020 draft class will likely be eligible for an extension, but Pittman hasn’t been talked about like others in the class to get that type of deal, like Justin Jefferson or Tee Higgins. Could Pittman be on the move after the 2023 season? It’s possible he could be in a different situation. The Colts don’t have many star players as pass catchers, so resigning Pittman was a move they made. It is so that Pittman will have to deal with the highs and lows of his quarterback situations. If the Colts don’t resign Pittman, tell him how the Colts value their current WR1 on the team.

Dynasty Trade Values 

  • 2025 1st & 2nd for Michael Pittman
  • Chris Olave for Michael Pittman and Two 2024 2nds
  • Geno Smith for Michael Pittman
  • Brandon Aiyuk for Michael Pittman

I found some recent trades from the Dynasty Nerds GM 2.0. Starting with the first trade, I like the value of Pittman, even though it is two years away. I’m concerned by the end, Pittman will have a star quarterback; it may be too late for Pittman, who will be turning 28 during the 2025 season. In the second trade, give me Chris Olave. Olave has superstar potential that Pittman likely won’t offer over his career. Two second-round picks are nothing for an elite young player. The third trade is interesting, but this is an excellent opportunity to get a decent QB2 for a Superflex league. Smith has a ton of talent around him, and giving up Pittman in this trade is a no-brainer. The final trade here is too easy for me not to pass up. Aiyuk is probably one of the most underrated fantasy receivers in dynasty. He has proven himself each year with different quarterback plays. Pittman has also tried to do that, but Aiyuk has been more efficient with his opportunity, even without being the main target on the offense. I’d make that trade to grab Aiyuk.

Final Thoughts

Following his 2021 season, Pittman felt like a steal for many dynasty owners after getting him in round two in many rookie drafts. While he is still likely to be the WR1 in Colt’s offense, his upside feels capped moving forward. His quarterback situation is rocky in 2023, and if he signs could be for the next two to three years. As an older prospect coming into the league, moving off the 25-year-old receiver seems right. I think he has solid value, and you could get something great in return. I don’t see WR1 value in his game; his ceiling is mid-range WR2. That would need a lot to go right for him to hit that marker. He is better at a WR3, and you can still get WR2 value in return. He’ll continue to be a consistent flex option but with minimal upside. Pittman is a sell-high for me in Dynasty, and you should make a deal before the season.

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