Once considered a strength of the team, the New York Giants’ wide receiving depth chart has worn thin. There are questions regarding Sterling Shepard and his long-term health, Golden Tate will be 32 at the start of the season and entering the last year of his guaranteed money. Corey Coleman, Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, and Cody Core are all free agents.
Darius Slayton emerged as a bright spot on the Giants’ offense, but they need more good, reliable pass catchers to build with for 2020 and beyond.
Micheal Pittman Jr. out of USC is in a curious place in this crowded receiver draft. He is widely regarded as a good prospect, but isn’t nearly so highly regarded as some of the other prospects in this draft class. He isn’t the athlete that Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III are, nor does he have the knack for generating big plays of CeeDee Lamb. However, he was very productive this season, racking up over 100 catches, 1,200 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He uses his size, strength, and football savvy well and could be a player in the mold of A.J. Brown or fellow USC alum JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Could Pittman Jr. be an option for the Giants after the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft?
Prospect: Michael Pittman Jr. (USC)
Games Watched: vs UCLA ‘18, vs Colorado ‘19, vs BYU ‘19, vs Utah ‘19
Red Flags: None
Height: 6037 (6-feet, 3 7/8 inches)
Weight: 219 pounds
Arm Length, Wingspan: 32 3/8 inches, 78 1/2”
Hand Size: 9 1/8”
Games Played: 41
Yards (YPC): 2519 yards (14.7 per catch)
Best: Size, physicality, route running, play strength, versatility
Worst: Explosion, long speed
Projection: A starting receiver with scheme versatility
USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. is a big, strong, smart, and versatile player with a prototypical build for the position. Pittman lined up both outside and as a “big slot” in Southern California’s offense and was able to play effectively out of either alignment. Pittman ran a variety of routes, from vertical routes,to come-back and curl routes, to shallow crossing routes and mesh concepts. He has a good release off the line of scrimmage, in particular using his hands well to clear defensive backs to try to jam him at the line. Pittman is a one-speed runner through his route stems, but breaks sharply for a big receiver. He shows good awareness of coverages and an understanding of positioning to adjust his routes to minimize defenders’ opportunity to play the ball. He also shows a very good ability to track the ball in the air, adjusting his route to the throw. Pittman has very good body control and is a smooth “hands” catcher, consistently extending to pluck the ball out of the air and maximize his catch radius. Pittman has very strong hands and is willing to fight for the ball in contested catch situations, as well as put his body between the ball and the defender.
Pittman is capable of picking up yards after the catch. He typically uses his power to run through arm-tackles and long strides to pick up yardage in the open field.
Pittman is a willing and effective blocker for his teammates in the run game in run-after-catch opportunities. He uses his size and strength effectively to control defensive backs, helping to pick up extra yardage and create big plays.
Pittman Jr. is a functional but not exceptional athlete for the position. He is capable of making sharp breaks for a bigger, taller receiver but there is still noticeable foot chop as he slows and changes direction. He also lacks great explosiveness out of his breaks or off the line of scrimmage and as such, he is unlikely to time as particularly fast. His speed is more dependant on his stride length in the open field than stride quickness. Also, Pittman is not a creative runner with the ball in his hands, preferring to run through poor tackle attempts than to try and force missed tackles altogether.
Overall Grade: 6.3 - Has the traits to become a dependable starter within his first couple seasons. Should be an immediate contributor on any team he joins. A good value on the second day of the draft.
Michael Pittman Jr. projects as an important role player with starter upside at the NFL level.
He has the ability to play any receiver position, but is unlikely to dominate match-ups from an athletic standpoint. He has the potential to be a starting “X” receiver at the NFL level if he can prove he is able to consistently separate against tight man coverage. However, his ability to act as a possession receiver from the Flanker or Slot positions will keep him on the field and give offensive coordinators added options. His ability and willingness to block for his teammates will give Pittman added value, particularly for offenses which run out of 11-personnel packages or rely heavily on screen plays.