In 2010, the Ravens drafted back-to-back tight ends. In the third round, they took all-around tight end Ed Dickson. In the next round, they grabbed pass catcher Dennis Pitta.
Eight years later, the Ravens pulled a similar double tight ends move.
In the first round of this year’s draft, they selected versatile tight end Hayden Hurst. In the third round, they picked what was essentially a big-bodied college wide receiver in Mark Andrews.
Already, the comparisons are rolling in between Pitta and Andrews, and there may be some validity to them.
“That’s a huge honor to be compared to someone like that and someone that has done so much for this organization and had some big years,” Andrews said.
“I can see it – just watching some tape today. We see him running some routes. He’s a great player, so that comparison is honestly humbling. I have to go out there and work and earn my spot and hopefully I can be there one day.”
Pitta was a huge hit and favorite target of quarterback Joe Flacco’s for several years before a third hip fracture/dislocation ended his career prematurely. Pitta had a knack for getting open and providing Flacco with a sure-handed, reliable target over the middle of the field and in picking up first downs.
Andrews plays the game in a similar way. He’s crafty with his route-running and finds ways to uncover despite not being especially fast or quick. He’s an inch taller and about 10 pounds heavier than Pitta.
Andrews had big-time college production at Oklahoma, especially in the red zone. He scored 22 touchdowns in three seasons and won the John Mackey Award (college football’s best tight end) after a monster junior season in which he caught 62 passes for 958 yards and eight touchdowns.
Despite that, he was the fourth tight end selected in this year’s draft, following Hurst, Mike Gesicki (Miami Dolphins) and Dallas Goedert (Philadelphia Eagles). Even after the Ravens selected Hurst at No. 25 overall, Andrews thought Baltimore could still pick him.
“The Ravens have always had a history of loving their tight ends, so it was never out of the picture for me,” Andrews said. “I know my abilities and what I can do.”
Baltimore needs a receiver to step in and catch a lot of passes this year. Veteran Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams are better blockers than receivers. Departed tight end Benjamin Watson led the Ravens in receptions (61) last year, and Pitta did the year before that.
Pitta only caught one pass for 1 yard his rookie season. Dickson had three catches for 11 yards. They both learned for a year behind Todd Heap. The Ravens will need more from Andrews and Hurst.
“Hayden is an extremely aggressive player,” Andrews said. “I think we can work off each other and use our strengths and whatnot. I think it’s going to be a very healthy thing. This is something where we’re going to make defenses have to guess what we’re going to do – block, pass, whatever it may be. It’s going to be tough on defenses to be able to game plan for us.”
Blocking is one area where Andrews has a lot of room to improve. In Oklahoma’s spread offense, he almost always lined up off the line of scrimmage in the slot. The Ravens do some of that, but even Pitta, who was not a blocker when he arrived as a rookie, eventually did some dirty work in the trenches to the best of his ability.
“I grew up being a receiver I know how to [catch passes] – it’s something I’m really good at,” Andrews said. “But I’m a big-bodied guy. I haven’t got a lot of reps at doing it in college, but that’s something I’m going to learn, I think I’m going to thrive at one day.”
Andrews certainly seems to have the right mentality.
“I almost get an Oklahoma-vibe being out here. They love to work hard,” Andrews said. “It’s kind of like coming home to me. I’m excited about the opportunity to work hard, earn my spot and that’s what it’s all about here.”