For years, the best tight end in the NFL was a two-horse race. On one hand, Travis Kelce was a clinical route runner and one of the most productive receiving threats in the NFL. On the other hand, George Kittle was elite with the ball in his hands, and he was a tough-nosed blocker in the run game. In 2021, the NFL grew a third hand from the Baltimore Ravens named Mark Andrews. Andrews caught 107 passes for 1,361 yards and nine touchdowns en route to his second Pro Bowl. He swept first-team All-Pro teams (including the all-important All-Splash team).
What Makes Andrews Special
Mark Andrews and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson have a one-of-a-kind relationship, particularly against zone coverage. Both players have an innate feel for beating coverage and forcing defenses to play man coverage.
As a pure tight end, Mark Andrews gives a solid check to every box. He has developed into a good run blocker (75.0 run-blocking grade in 2021). Andrews has some of the most reliable hands at the position with his 2.7% drop rate ranking fifth among tight ends with three targets per game.
Mark Andrews has even developed as a contested-catch threat. After hauling in just 10 of 33 contested passes in his first two seasons, he has 32 contested catches in 55 tries since 2020. Andrews led tight ends with 18 contested catches in 2021, finishing tied for fourth across all pass catchers.
He has been an integral weapon to all levels of the field. In 2021, Andrews ranked in the top six tight ends in PFF grade on short, intermediate, and deep routes. He led all tight ends in receptions to each level. He led tight ends in intermediate touchdowns and deep yards.
Baltimore Ravens 2022 Outlook
According to Fantasy Pros, Mark Andrews is projected to catch 92 passes for 1,143 yards and nine touchdowns. While this would be a bit of a drop from his 1,361-yard 2021 season, it would put Andrews squarely among the elite tight ends once again.
However, Andrews was on pace for an eerily similar season through 12 games in 2021. He had 64 catches for 811 yards and five touchdowns, on pace for 91 catches, 1,149 yards, and seven touchdowns. This coincided with 11 of Jackson’s starts and one Tyler Huntley start.
The Huntley Games
Mark Andrews was the front-runner for the All-Pro nod through 12 games, but he ascended to a different level of effectiveness in the final five games. He averaged 110 yards per game, second only to Cooper Kupp. He tacked on four touchdowns to solidify one of the best tight end seasons ever. Extrapolated over 17 games, Andrews would have had 146 catches, 1,870 yards, and 14 touchdowns.
Andrews may never have a stretch like that again, but he does have 27 consecutive games with at least five targets and three catches. He might not average 11 targets per game for an extended stretch, but it is not inconceivable for Andrews to average between eight and nine targets per game moving forward.
Baltimore Ravens Replicating the Magic
The question here is not of Mark Andrews; it is of the competition. There is only one All-Pro spot available to tight ends, so Andrews could have an elite season but miss out to one of the top options. Let’s look at some of the other contenders.
Kelce is a three-time All-Pro, and he has made seven consecutive Pro Bowls. He has eight straight seasons with 850 or more yards and four touchdowns, surpassing 1,000 yards in each of the last six years. Kelce has two seasons with 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns. It remains to be seen what Kelce will do without Tyreek Hill, but Kelce could be even more productive.
Kittle has made the Pro Bowl in three out of four seasons, and he was the 2019 All-Pro tight end. In the last four years, Kittle has a 17-game average of 95 catches, 1,299 yards, and six touchdowns. Health has been a question, but he has played at least 14 games in three of four seasons, so it is more of an overplayed narrative than realistic.
Darren Waller has a 17-game average of 100 catches, 1,188 yards, and six touchdowns over the last three seasons. He has a pair of 1,100-yard seasons, and he was a 2020 Pro Bowler. Waller faces the inverse “problem” of Kelce. The Las Vegas Raiders added an All-Pro receiver, so Waller’s volume could change. However, adding Davante Adams expands the range of outcomes for Waller in terms of scoring touchdowns.
Kyle Pitts is the great unknown in the tight end world. As a rookie, he surpassed 1,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl. However, Delanie Walker offers some insight on how good Pitts might be. From 2014 to 2017, Walker had a 17-game average of 82 catches, 999 yards, and six touchdowns. This is notable because his tight ends coach was Arthur Smith, and his quarterback (for three of four seasons) was Marcus Mariota.
Will Andrews Make the All-Pro Team?
Odds are, Mark Andrews will not be an All-Pro in 2022. He would likely be the second favorite behind Kelce, but, in a betting sense, both players would be plus-money. With the top-heavy nature of the position, it will be difficult to have a clear favorite.
However, Mark Andrews should post an All-Pro caliber season. Even if he is not recognized as an All-Pro, he is one of the best tight ends in the NFL, and his 2021 contract extension looks like one of the NFL’s biggest steals just 10 months later. Mark Andrews will continue to ascend in the annals of Baltimore Ravens history, and he will likely be third in franchise receiving yards and second in franchise receiving touchdowns just weeks into the season.
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