Every draft class has players who capture the imagination of evaluators around the NFL and the media alike. Some of these players define their positional archetypes and project to be great as soon as they stop on an NFL field. Other times, however, the League is faced with players who defy convention and offer a skill set the NFL has only rarely seen before.
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is one of those players. Tipping the scales as 6-foot-5 5/8 inches, and 245 pounds, he looks more like an industrial sized receiver than an undersized offensive tackle. And that defines his game as well. While the NFL has seen more and more “hybrid” tight ends who are receivers first, following in the footsteps of Dallas Clark, Tony Gonzalez or Jimmy Graham, they have only rarely seen a player like Pitts.
Pitts more accurately mirrors massing — yet athletic — receivers like Plaxico Burress, Vincent Jackson, Calvin Johnson, or Mike Evans.
Could Pitts be the next great “big” receiver in the NFL?
Prospect: Kyle Pitts
Games Watched: vs. South Carolina (2020), vs. Texas A&M (2020), vs. Georgia (2020), vs. Alabama (2020)
Games Played: 24
Yards (YPC): 1,492 (14.9 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 18
Games Played: 8
Yards (YPC): 770 (17.9 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 12
Best: Size, athleticism, route running, ball skills, versatility
Projection: A starting receiver with scheme versatility.
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts possesses an uncommon blend of size, athleticism, route running, and ball skills for the position. Pitts has excellent length for a tight end at 6-foot-6, enough size to be a blocker when necessary, and the athleticism to routinely line up at any wide receiver position.
Pitts is an extremely versatile player who lined up at in-line and detached tight end, H-back, slot receiver, flanker, and X receiver in the Florida offense. His versatility and ability to line up across the offensive formation allows him to create and exploit a variety of athletic mismatches, presenting numerous problems for the defense. Pitts shows a good release off the line of scrimmage, using his size, quick feet, and body control to get off the line of scrimmage with minimum wasted time or motion, even against press coverage. He is also a savvy route runner, routinely varying his speed and changing his stride length to disrupt defensive backs’ timing. Pitts is able to run a full route tree from any offensive alignment, and has a rare ability for a player his size to sink his hips and break suddenly.
Pitts was also frequently used as a part of route concepts to help create separation for teammates. His size allowed him to create more traffic for defenders, and was particularly effective on mesh concepts or rub routes, where he could force defenders to run around him.
Pitts does a very good job of presenting a clear target to his quarterback, working back to the ball, using his frame to shield the ball from defenders, and extending to maximize his considerable catch radius and pluck the ball out of the air.
Pitts shows good competitive toughness and is willing to brave the middle of the field. He routinely extends to make catches, even when he knows violent hits are coming.
Pitts is a willing blocker, but not a very good one. He doesn’t hesitate to get his hands on defenders, but he lacks the mass and play strength to be more than a pest for front seven defenders. Pitts also appears unsure about his technique at times, blocking with poor leverage and hand placement, as well as needing a beat before engaging defenders when he is pulling across the formation. He is seldom able to take defenders out of the play and occasionally barely even slows them down.
Overall Grade: 9.4 - This prospect has the potential to start immediately, be an impact contributor, and be a Pro Bowl player in the right situation.
Pitts likely projects best as a wide receiver with scheme versatility at the NFL level. While Florida called him a tight end and asked him to line up in-line and block often enough to justify the title, any play in which Pitts is blocking and not running a route is a waste of his potent receiving ability. While Pitts is a competitive blocker, he isn’t very good at it. He doesn’t have the play strength to stand up to NFL defensive linemen and EDGE defenders, nor does he block with consistently good technique. He tends to be more of a nuisance or speed bump than a player who can lay key blocks or protect the quarterback.
His game more accurately mirrors big receivers like Mike Evans or Plaxico Burress, who are able to use their size to overwhelm cornerbacks and safeties, while simply being too athletic for defenders their size to match. His ability to play each wide receiver position would allow an offense to manipulate alignments and force defensive backs into roles in which they aren’t comfortable, such as asking a big outside corner to play inside or risk matching a smaller slot corner up against the 6-foot-6 Pitts.
Pitts is a good route runner, and not just for a player his size. He shows a good understanding of route concepts and uses his route running to generate separation and maximize receiving windows — as well as using his own massive catch radius to make plays which coverage players simply can’t defend. Pitts also shows impressive flexibility and body control to drop his hips and lower his center of gravity going into cuts, allowing him to break much more sharply than most players his size.
He also has the ability to shed tackles, lengthen his stride, and pick up good yards after the catch.
Pitts’ versatility and experience at tight end can be used by offensive coordinators in misdirection, such as helping to sell the run in play-action passes or screen plays. That being said, he will have the most impact as a receiver. Viewed as an offensive weapon in the receiving game, Pitts is one of the draft’s very best and could be an impact player immediately upon stepping on the field, at least in an environment which allows him to do so.