(Kyle Pitts, Evan Lapek / Getty Images)
The 2021 NFL Draft is stacked from top to bottom with talented receivers. Whether you’re targeting a player like Jaylen Waddle or Ja’Marr Chase early in the first round or a later round prospect like Josh Palmer or Shi Smith; you’ll be getting a talented prospect who can contribute in the passing game.
However, their is a pass catcher who has the potential to be better than them all and he’s not even a wide receiver: Florida tight end, Kyle Pitts. Tight ends like Pitts don’t come around often, and when they do you better draft them early because it’s going to be several years before we see another tight end prospect who compares.
At this point it seems like we can find extremely talented wide receiver prospects in every draft. Last year it was between CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs — all were drafted in the top 20 — as to who would be the first guy drafted. This year we are having a similar argument with Waddle, Chase, and the Heisman winner, DeVonta Smith. It doesn’t stop there though, as we look ahead to next year, we could be having this same conversation about George Pickens, Chris Olave, and whatever guy that is likely to insert his name into the discussion.
Unlike the receiver position, tight end hasn’t had the same kind of luck. Drafting tight ends in the first round hasn’t exactly worked out in the past (Eric Ebron, O.J. Howard, and Jermaine Gresham to name a few) but Pitts is a much different prospect. Pitts is a mismatch wherever you line him up on the field. If you line him inline where he’ll be attacking linebackers he quicker and more agile. If you put him on the outside against receivers, he’s too big and still has the agility to compete even with some of the better cornerback prospects in the SEC.
In the clip above, you’ll see Kyle Pitts taking on Alabama corner, Patrick Surtain, who has a good argument for the best corner in the class. It doesn’t just end here though, he’s also put up reps against other top corners like Kelvin Joseph and Tyson Campbell and has came away with similar results.
His ability to compete on the outside makes him a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. He has the athleticism to threaten corners in off-coverage and the ability to turn on the afterburners when securing the catch. Here’s Pitts running away from Joseph, who is expected to put up great numbers at the combine.
One can have all the talent in the world, but if you can’t catch the ball as a “receiver” than there isn’t much hope for you, as we’ve seen with Ebron. This, however, is not the case for Pitts; one could argue he has the best hands in the class. On 66 targets this season — only played in 8 games — Pitts did not drop a single pass. He isn’t just making easy catches either, he is consistently going outside of his frame to reel in the ball.
Perhaps the most exciting factor about Pitts from a viewers perspective is that he hasn’t even truly tapped into all his potential. During the season Pitts weighed in at a listed at 239-pounds and with his frame, he may have the chance to put on 15 or so more pounds which would help him a ton when lined up as an inline tight end, working through contact and as a blocker as well.
There’s an argument out there that Pitts isn’t a blocker. While this may have some merit, it isn’t 100-percent the truth. He may not be the blocker that T.J. Hockenson was coming out of Iowa, but he is certainly serviceable and that will do when you bring to the table what Pitts brings. Once he can learn to use his length to his advantage he’ll have no trouble out-leveraging players, especially with added mass.
Not only does Pitts body have room to grow, but so does he as a player. When the NFL season starts next year (as long as there are no delays) he will only be 20 years old. If you’re in to break-out age, then you should be a fan of Kyle Pitts. There isn’t much he needs to improve on, which makes it all the more wild that he still has room to grow as a player.
Despite the fact that Pitts isn’t a receiver shouldn’t stop you from valuing him like one. He will allow your offense to be multiple, you can come out in 22 personnel (2 running backs and 2 tight ends) and have the ability to motion out of it if the defense is heavy in the box or run the ball if they stay light because of the threat that Pitts brings as a receiver.
When Pitts is on the field and on your team he will cause opposing teams to plan strictly for him. There aren’t many players in the league who can cover a 6-foot-6, 239-pound man who can move like he’s 4-inches shorter and 30-pounds lighter.
Derwin James’ don’t grow on trees.
There’s a decent chance Pitts may struggle the first year or two — as do all tight ends, it tends to be one of the tougher positions to adjust to in the NFL — if you use him like a traditional tight-end, lining him up on the line-of-scrimmage and having him run his routes from a three-point stance. Nonetheless, if you can get an offensive coordinator who can be a bit creative with him, there shouldn’t be a huge adjustment period for Pitts at the next level, i.e. letting him work outside and in the slot.
Pitts is not on the best pass catcher in this class, but one could argue he is the best prospect in this year’s draft, yes, better than Trevor Lawrence. There isn’t a perfect comparison for Pitts, but the easiest is Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders. That’s though, is part of what make him a truly special prospect.
Don’t be the team that regrets passing on him 5 years down the road.