November 22, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Houston Texans free safety Danieal Manning (38) strips the ball from Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew (87) during the 2nd half at Ford Field. Texans won 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Pettigrew Ranks in Bottom Five for Tight End Drops

Brandon Pettigrew has a problem holding on to the football. That isn’t up for debate, all that can be discussed is the frequency and the extent to which it is a problem for the Detroit Lions.

Pro Football Focus recently took a look at dropped passes by tight ends. As expected, Brandon Pettigrew makes the list for one of the highest drop totals in the league with nine during the 2012 season. That puts him in a tie with Jermichael Finley for third most, but the names that dropped more passes might surprise you. Aaron Hernandez dropped the second most with ten while Jimmy Graham was well ahead of the pack with 15 dropped passes.

Obviously, looking at the total number of drops is a terrible comparison since tight ends are used in different ways and to varying degrees in a team’s passing attack. The people at PFF are smart people and know basic math concepts so they went a step further to provide the drop information in the form of a percentage of catchable passes that were dropped.

With a drop rate of 13.24%, Pettigrew doesn’t come out looking any better, but he also doesn’t come out looking any worse. His drop rate was good (bad?) for fourth-worst but still better than higher profile names of Jimmy Graham (15%) and Aaron Hernandez (16.39%). Delanie Walker just made the cut with 30 catchable passes, of which he dropped a staggering 30%.

So, yes, no matter how you look at it, Brandon Pettigrew really does drop an inordinate amount of passes. The question is, how big of a problem is it for the Lions?

I’m inclined to discount the problem to some degree based on the company Pettigrew finds on the drops list. The New Orleans Saints aren’t looking to run Jimmy Graham out of town, nor are the New England Patriots with Aaron Hernandez. But those players are certainly more dynamic than Pettigrew so there is often more good to take with the bad.

All players have strengths and weaknesses, it just so happens that Pettigrew’s most glaring weakness is holding on to the football and this is where the true problem goes beyond just dropped passes. Pettigrew fumbled the ball four times in 2012. Compare that to Jimmy Graham’s one fumble and none for Aaron Hernandez. Guarantee me that once it is in his hands, it won’t leave his hands and I can put up with Pettigrew’s drops.

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