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The top 11 narrowly ends in the 2021 design class




(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’6 ″ (85th) Weight: 245 (24th)
40-Yard Dash: 4.44 seconds (99th)
Bench press: 22 reps (69th)
Vertical jump: 34 inch (52nd)
Broad jump: 129 inch (97th)
3 cone drill: 7.12 seconds (59th)
Shuttle of 20 meters: 4.30 seconds (69th)

Bio:At the start of the 2020 season, Kyle Pitts was considered a “player to watch” in the tight finishing position, while other names such as Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth might be more likely to emerge as the best option in the position. Everything changed when Pitts put together a great final season for the Gators. In just eight games, he caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns, with touchdown receptions a record for his career. Outside of production is what he put on film. The phrase ‘matchup nightmare’ almost became a running gag on Florida broadcasts, as followed by the well-known Gators fan – and huge Carolina Panthers fan – Trevor Sikkema:

Over the course of the season, Pitts moved from playing to looking at the position to arguably the first non-quarterback to be taken in the draft. But the increase is real, as we will discuss.

Stat to Know:Thanks to map data from Pro Football Focus, we know that Pitts averaged 4.91 meters per route against the man’s cover, the third highest of any player in the country and more than two meters higher than the second-ranked tight end . Matchup. Nightmare.

Strengths:Every time I sat down to study quarterback Kyle Trask, I ended up taking more notes about Pitts. What makes him such an intriguing talent is the fact that yes, matchup nightmare is exactly what he was in college and can be on the next level. If you think about it, his position in the NFL can be accurately listed as MN: Matchup Nightmare then TE: Tight End.

Florida used it all over the field, placing it in line, in the wing, in the slot, and then snapped it to the boundary like more of an X receiver. His ability to beat human coverage – as illustrated by the distance by route – consistently shows up on film. Whether cornerbacks on double movements or linebackers on inclined or pivot routes. Pitts also has a huge catch radius, as shown in the above image from the SEC Championship game. Put it next to him, and chances are he will get the catch.

What helps him against man cover, and what you can see on the film, is his lower body technique. Pitts has the footwork of a slot receiver, and when you see a player like him running down the goal line as if he were Julian Edelman, you’re in awe. Pitts really drops his hips and lower body in and out of cuts, giving him that critical separation from the nearest defender, even on fast game drafts.

Then there is its schematic diversity. Pitts fits into any offensive system and can run any route out of any alignment. Whether it’s a pure West Coast attack, an Air Coryell downfield system and everything in between, Pitts can give you what you need.

Weak points:Three weaknesses often come up when discussing Pitts. First, there’s the idea that he’s just a tight end and those players don’t provide the value that others on the attacking side of football do. Again, Pitts is more than a TE. Smart attack coordinators will find ways to make defenders pay in male coverage situations, through tailoring, staffing, and schedule. Second is its blocking. Is Pitts someone who puts you next to the tackle and leaves Sprint 36 Gut behind you? Probably no more than a few times per game, if so. But Pitts improved from 2019 to 2020 as a blocker in both the run game and pass protection. Additionally, if you are drafting him and using him as a blocker for more than a handful of snaps per game, the happiest person in the stadium will be your opponent’s defensive coordinator.

Finally his mate. Pitts will not fit into the mold of a protypically tight end. Neither does his unofficially 40-yard dash time of 4.46. If you really want to block your tight end, there are options you can pair with him later in the draft. If you want someone who can run through a cornerback on the first down and then escape a safety on the third down, this is your player.

Conclusion:Football is a matchup game and offensive coordinators try as hard as possible to create mismatches and then exploit them. A player like Pitts, with the ability to beat defensive backs and linebackers in man cover, is ideal for filling that role. Even teams that are already short on roster, such as the Philadelphia Eagles or the Detroit Lions, would be smart to consider Pitts. You can place him next to a Zach Ertz or a TJ Hockenson and run a 12-member pack that forces the defense to decide whether to use a base pack or a sub pack. Either way, the defense is wrong. When they get light, you can run after the TE duo. If they get heavy, spread them out, put Pitts on the boundary and watch him run away from protections or linebackers. It’s a win-win for you as an offense.

Comparison:Darren Waller is a name that often appears in the Pitts conversation, and I understand that. Deep down, I think Pitts is one of those prospects who deserves a comparison to himself. He’s Kyle Pitts, the most dangerous weapon in this attack class.

Resources:For more information about Pitts you can watch this videobreaking down which delves into what he does well and how he can be used in the NFL.

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