For the past few months, countless people have asked Brandon Pettigrew which NFL tight end he models his game after.
No one, he says. When Pettigrew sits down to watch a football game, he's a scientist. He isolates on tight ends, processing the tendencies he likes. He extracts numerous qualities from numerous tight ends. These potions are then mixed together, creating his own monster.
"I'll see somebody do something and I'll be like, ‘Man that was kind of nice' and I'll try to work on that," Pettigrew said. "I'll see them run a route and put a move on somebody and I'll try to do that. If I see somebody block a certain way or step a certain way – just the way they do it – I'll try to do that as well."
And that's why Pettigrew is widely considered the most complete tight end to come out in years. He didn't post ungodly numbers at Oklahoma State and he didn't drop jaws in the 40-yard dash. But it's almost impossible to nitpick flaws in Pettigrew's game. At 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, Pettigrew is built like an angry lumberjack.
Pettigrew paid plenty of attention to Buffalo's active off-season.
"They got some new players," Pettigrew said. "It'd be big to be a part of that. I definitely wouldn't mind getting in there and helping (the offense) excel."
Brandon Pettigrew visited Buffalo along with four other teams.
In addition to Buffalo, Pettigrew said he also visited the Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. The weather was great when he strolled into Orchard Park, N.Y. back in mid-March. No icy winds, no lingering lake effect.
"It wasn't too bad, it was like in the 50s," Pettigrew said. "I know it can get cold though."
Pettigrew met with head coach Dick Jauron and several other coaches, going to Dave and Buster's for dinner. Pettigrew's football I.Q. underwent a play memorization test and he talked to the Bills about how he could fit into their offense specifically.
"(Buffalo) felt that I could do both (blocking and catching) so that's how they thought I could fit in," Pettigrew said. "They felt that I could do both. They didn't just want to have one guy who could do blocking and one guy who could catch."
Blocking and catching. Pettigrew said he's always prided himself on being a complete tight end. Recent gems at his position like Vernon Davis and Kellen Winslow Jr. were athletic freaks that projected as next-generation trendsetters. Intriguing, but not realistic.
Meanwhile, Pettigrew relishes the dirty work. During high school, he was rarely unleashed into the passing game. Never spoiled.
"My coaches always told me to play hard without the ball too because if you're the one with the ball you want people playing hard for you," Pettigrew said. "So it works both ways."
At Oklahoma State, Pettigrew wasn't a major part of the passing game, either. Fine by him. During games, Pettigrew regularly requested plays from the sideline. Not passing routes that put the limelight on him, rather run plays where he could block for his backs. Thanks in large part to Pettigrew's unselfish (and dominant) in-line blocking, the Cowboys rushed for 245.5 yards per game – eighth-best in the nation. The tight end averaged more than 54 knockdown blocks per year.
Last year, eight Pettigrew pancakes led to touchdowns.
Rather than declare for the NFL Draft after catching 35 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns as a junior, he stuck around.
And caught a bad break. During a 7-on-7 drill early in the season, Pettigrew ran an out pattern and had a defender step on his ankle. The resulting sprain sidelined Pettigrew for four games. He caught 42 balls for 472 yards, yet never got into the end zone.
Naturally, the you-should-have-gone-pro critics got louder. But Pettigrew said he never looked back.
"You can't look back. I didn't look back," he said. "I made my decision, stuck with it and looked forward from there. You can't make decisions and regret it. That's how I looked at it."
So he continued doing what he's always done – learn specific tendencies from the greats.
Jason Witten became one of Pettigrew's particular fascinations. He said he loves to study Witten's innate ability to get separation on linebackers in man coverage. While running post routes, Witten leans sharply to the outside to freeze the ‘backer, Pettigrew said. The trick never fails. In six seasons, Witten has 429 receptions.
"He does it all the time," Pettigrew said. "Even if they know it's coming, he still gets it done. I ran a few of them. I haven't run a lot. When I get it, I try to do it the same way."
After the season, Pettigrew trained at the innovative Michael Johnson Performance Center – continuing to sculpt his massive frame. He weight-trained, worked in the pool and ran plenty of 40-yard dashes.
But for someone who has made a living of dissecting the game – from the first step tight ends take in blocking schemes to Witten's shoulder lean – this whole 40-yard dash thing can seem pointless. There's two types of speed, he says.
"There's 40 speed and then there's field speed," Pettigrew said. "They just want to see it. I don't think it really matters because they're two different things to me and to a lot of people."Pettigrew finished 14th among tight ends at the NFL Combine with an underwhelming 4.83 seconds. Red flags should have sprouted. Mel Kiper should have ripped that gelled hair out of his head. But it didn't. The subpar time didn't ding Pettigrew's draft stock at all.
Teams realize that 40 percent of Pettigrew's receiving yards came after the catch. Field speed.
Pettigrew said all five teams he visited expressed "serious interest," adding that it'll be a "tight race."
Pettigrew's physical attributes are on a different planet compared to them. See here for yourself.
Derek Fine and Derek Schouman have shown promise, but Pettigrew is on a different level.
Why would New England Draft another tight end after giving Chris Baker a multi-year deal?
Because Both Ben Watson and David Thomas are set to see their current contracts expire after 2009 and their injury history, combined with their inconsistent play, has one -- or both -- potentially playing in a new uniform for their next contract. If New England wants to build for the future, one block -- a very big block -- could come via Pettigrew. With four picks in the top 58, New England has plenty of flexibility to move up to get Pettigrew if they believe he's their man.MORE:
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Patriots Insider Jon Scott Contributed to this report. Tyler Dunne is the publisher for Buffalo Football Report.