Florida’s Kyle Pitts could be the first tight end in NFL history to be selected in the top five of the draft. His unnatural speed, size, and skill is perfectly suited for the slot position in modern football — and he creates mismatch nightmares so profound he could easily be the first receiver taken in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Considering the Covid-shaken, fractured college football season it’s forgivable if you’ve slept on Pitts up to this point, but it’s time to wake up and take notice of a player you might be hearing about for the next decade, and a player you should be jumping for joy over if your team selects him.
Kyle Pitts, by the numbers
Pitts has ideal size to play in the NFL, measuring 6’6, 246 pounds. It makes him roughly the same weight, but three inches taller than his closest NFL analog: Vernon Davis. He has a body big enough to mix it up with linebackers, and the height to make him a tough cover for even the largest cornerbacks in the NFL.
Height and weight is only a small factor in why Pitts is so dominant.He runs a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash, showing wide receiver levels of acceleration and explosiveness. When you add that speed to his 83-inch wingspan you have a player who is a hybrid between some of the best tight ends to ever play the game, and a receiver like Calvin Johnson. That’s ludicrous praise, and it’s deserved.
Playing in eight games for the Gators in 2020, Pitts proved time and time again that he was almost unstoppable. In the SEC Championship Game, against eventual national champions Alabama, Pitts caught seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. Nick Saban and Co. knew the ball was going to Pitts almost half the time, and couldn’t work out a defense to stop him not just getting receptions, and moving the chains like tight ends do, but gashing Bama deep like a slot receiver.
Kyle Pitts is a PROBLEM
If you’re an opposing defense, I don’t know how you’re supposed to effectively cover him. It’s not just a case of him being bigger, and more athletic than most players you traditionally ask to cover tight ends — but he’s a naturally gifted receiver, who catches the ball away from his body and runs fluid routes. This is a player who not only understands he has a natural edge over his competition, but knows how to leverage it to be as difficult to defend as possible.
Pitts is perfect for the modern NFL
We’ve seen a pivot away from the time-worn tradition of putting small, shifty receivers in the slot. The NFL moves in waves, and when small receivers dominated in the slot defenses got better at putting elite nickel corners in the position to hamper that weapon.
Recently the trend has been to put big-bodied deep threat receivers in the slot who can soar over smaller corners, and out-run linebackers. This has been working, but comes with the risk whether these receivers have the toughness to take big hits over the middle.
Pitts has shown not only a willingness to take hits, but relishes this kind of work. This is a receiver who never fumbled during his time at Florida, not once. Just consider that for a second. His ball security was so good that even knowing defenders would tee off on him, he kept the ball in his hands. That’s special.
Is there anything that needs work?
Yes, and that’s encouraging too. Pitts isn’t the best blocker — which is definitely a requirement of a tight end. It’s not that he doesn’t have ability, but more that it’s clear this hasn’t been a point of emphasis in his career.
Pitts has a tendency to long-arm his blocks instead of getting inside and achieving leverage. He needs some tutelage in this area in order to be a help in the blocking game, but all signs point to him having the potential to succeed.
Pitts is a rare, rare talent
You’ll hear the term “unicorn” mentioned with Kyle Pitts, and it’s well deserved. That’s a player whose physical gifts are so profound that they can absolutely dominate in the NFL.
Pitts is everything you’d want out of an offensive weapon, and with NFL coaches he could get even better. That’s why the hype is real, why it’s deserved, and why there’s more to him than “just a tight end” when you hear his name called at the top of the first round.