Tight end Ben Utecht hasn't been a favorite of Colts fans this season, myself included. After to Charlie Johnson and Aaron Moorehead I can't think of a player that has been criticized more by Colts fans, but has he gotten a fair assessment? I'll take a look.
The inspiration for the re-examination of Utecht came from one of by favorite sites and home of the best football analysis on the internet, Football Outsiders. A few days ago I stumbled onto this stat: Ben Utecht has caught 86% of the passes thrown to him. That's outstanding. That is the best % of any Tight End or Wide Receiver with more than 10 passes thrown to them (he has 28 targets). The great hands he has displayed this season has gone nearly unnoticed. That's good enough for the 6th best DVOA (value per-play) of all Tight Ends so far this year. It's not just short stuff either. He's averaging 11.2 yards per reception.
Is this a fluke? It's possible, but last season Utecht showed a similar tendency to catch the ball, bringing in 37 of the 53 (70%) passes thrown his way (stat from Pro Football Prospectus 2007). He's always been a good blocker and has kept Bryan Fletcher sitting on the bench nearly all year.
The knock on him this year has been fumbles. I was again shocked when I turned to the stats. He only fumbled twice. Two times, all season. That's not ideal, but far from the perception of him as simply unable to hold onto the ball. In his career he's fumbled 3 times, on 62 catches.
Ben Utecht, underrated, overcritized.