A common argument amongst football enthusiasts’ band is the tight end position is not as valuable as other positions, and therefore taking one with a high draft pick may not represent ultimate value for the team acquiring the player. And yes, there is flesh to this argument when looking at the first-round tight ends drafted recently, where none have stamped themselves as a top five player in the position group. The likes of OJ Howard, David Njoku, Eric Ebron, Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson fit into this category (although Hockenson with another good year could enter the conversation).
Adding even more weight to this argument, the top 5 tight ends in the league have been drafted in the middle to later rounds in their respective drafts. Amongst George Kittle, Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, Robert Tonyan and Darren Waller, the earliest any of these tight ends were taken in their respective drafts was Kelce in round 3, pick 63.
Even more of an argument is looking back at the 2020 draft, the tight end class performed abysmally (and I’m being kind here), with Harrison Bryant of the Browns performing best (24rec 233yds & 3TD’s). In last year’s draft, no tight ends were selected in the first round, with the earliest being Cole Kmet in Round 2 to the Bears.
But Kyle Pitts bucks all the rationale I’ve just mentioned, because Kyle Pitts is not just any tight end. Kyle Pitts is the best receiver to come out of this year’s draft, and the best non-QB in this draft. Kyle Pitts is a freak when it comes to his all-round overall game, so much so that Mel Kiper has gone as far to say he is the best tight end he has ever analysed in his 43 year career as a NFL Draft Analyst. Yes, better the Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates and Shannon Sharpe. That’s how good Kyle Pitts is, and this is the potential an NFL team could be getting come Thursday.
Let us not just take what the likes of Mel Kiper have said, and the bold statements professed in the article thus far, let’s analyse the film from 2020 to show the facets of Pitts’ game to justify the hype. In 2020, Pitts amassed 43 receptions, 770 yards and 12TD’s; with zero drops and an average yards per catch of 17.9. To breakdown how he amassed these incredible stats as a tight end last year, I am going to separate his game into eight different components to highlight why Kyle Pitts is so so good.
Pitts 56yd TD Reception vs Kentucky
The pro day 40 yard time of 4.44 can be upgraded to nearer 4.40 if Pitts ran in a straight line. However the elite speed for a man that’s 6’6 weighing 240lbs is shown perfectly in this clip. Up against Kelvin Joseph, a projected late Day 1/early Day 2 cornerback, who ran 4.34 in his pro day, Pitts is able to gather the catch in close coverage and is able to accelerate away from Joseph to take it for a 56 yard TD. Not only does he accelerate away from his man, he is able to create 2-3 yards worth of separation once the ball is gathered, and maintains that separation all the way to the end zone.
Pitts 18yd Rec vs South Carolina
In this clip, Pitts is covered by Jaycee Horn, widely considered to be the projected best or second best corner in this year’s draft. Playing as an X-receiver, Horn displays excellent press man coverage here, using his hands to try and jam Pitts and not giving him a yard of separation, swivelling his hips to face the ball in anticipation of it coming his way and directing the receiver towards the side-line. Horn could not have done much more here, however as the ball reaches Pitts, Horn is unable to make a play on Pitts due to his sheer size. Once Pitts swivels his hips to face the ball, Horn is unable to get around the tight end because he is simply to large of an athlete to move around.
(04:15) Pitts 7yd Rec TD vs Kentucky
First of all, I must confess this is my favourite Pitts play throughout the 2020 season. Selling the in route, Pitts swivels his whole body in one fluid motion to change direction and run an out route to create a wide open target for Kyle Trask to throw an easy TD in the red-zone. For a man his size and weight, to control his body once he has dug his right foot into the turf and perform this route with the snap and precision is nigh on freakish. Folks, this is not normal for a kid with his measurables to do this in the SEC.
(6:02) Pitts 21yd Rec vs Tennessee
Pitts again lines up as an X receiver on the outside in one-on-one coverage. The cornerback, Warren Burrell, is listed as 6’0 and does a decent job in matching Pitts stride for stride, taking him towards the boundary. However, as soon as Pitts swivels, he displays incredible body control to pluck the catch at the highest possible catch point, bringing the ball in and getting his foot inbounds to complete the catch. Pitts is able to complete catches like this due to his incredible 83.5 inch wingspan, as measured on his pro day. Coupling this wingspan with his height, athleticism and vertical ability, Pitts has an extra ordinary catch radius for which corners, linebackers and safeties find it difficult to cover him fully, and provides a QB with the most ultimate of weapons
Yards After Catch
(3:41) Pitts 25yd Rec vs Alabama
Playing against the best team in college football in 2020, Pitts lines up in the slot verus man coverage against Alabama in the 4th Qtr. Against safety Malachi Moore (23), Pitts gathers the ball at the 18yd line, before breaking not one, not two but three tackles to take the ball to the Alabama 1yd line. Breaking the shackles of safeties Moore and Jordan Battle (9) he finally gets brought down by corner Josh Jobe (28), however not until he has gained an extra 17 yards after the catch. On this play alone, he displays his elusiveness, toughness and speed to create valuable extra yards, that ultimately leads to a simple run-in TD score for the Gators.
(5:07) Pitts 22yd TD vs Alabama
Pre warning, this touchdown is absolutely incredible. Lining up in the slot in zone coverage, Pitts runs a post route towards the back of the end zone against three defenders. His body control and athleticism here to grab the ball at the high point against the defensive back Brian Branch (14), swivel mid-air, gather the football and get both feet inbounds to complete the catch resulting in a touchdown. Watch closely on the replay how he performs each individual action in one complete smooth motion. The coverage by the defensive back here means there is hardly any room in the end zone for Pitts to complete this whole process, however miraculously, he is able to not only achieve this, but make it look easy in the process.
Pitts 25yd TD vs Georgia
Against a cornerback in Tyson Campbell who ran a 4.34 in his pro day, and whom I have potentially going at the back end of round 1 in this years draft, Pitts makes a terrific back shoulder catch in the tightest of spaces to complete a 25yd touchdown reception. The most impressive part here is under blanket man coverage, where Campbell has done a very good job against the tight end, Pitts is somehow able to grab the ball over his back shoulder whilst staying inbounds. Pitts hands measure at 10 5/8 inches, which ranks in the top 93rd percentile amongst all tight ends since 1987. In basic terms, Pitts has buckets as hands, and no better is that explained by the sheer fact Pitts had no drops during the whole of the 2020 season.
Red Zone Target
(1:34) Pitts 5yd TD vs Texas A&M
A prerequisite of any top tight end is to be a quarterback’s best friend in the red zone. Against two defensive backs, Pitts here displays all the attributes we have discussed here to grab the ball in the endzone and complete the catch whilst being tackled in mid-air from both sides. All traits are displayed in this one clip; athleticism, catch radius, route running, hands, speed, toughness, you name it. It’s such an incredible play from someone his size and seemingly like all the other plays, he makes it look so easy. And to top it off, he has incredible swagger in his celebration.
Not included in this analysis is he is a willing blocker in the run game, and not afraid to get his hand in the dirt when positioned inline. In addition, when compiling this analysis, I could have taken one game and found clips that displayed the eight standout facets to his game in one outing. However to highlight consistency across the whole of the 2020 season against some of the best college competition, the sample size is across a variety of games and competition.
In conclusion, Kyle Pitts is no ordinary tight end. If Pitts had the letters ‘WR’ next to his name, there is a high probability he would be the first receiver off the board with the skills he possesses. Pitts is a generational talent, and even scarier, he is only 20 years old, yes you read that right, TWENTY!! Going by the reports of his college peers and how he has performed in the interviews thus far, Pitts is a high character player with zero red flags and has an elite mindset of hard-work, focus and continual improvement.
Chris Grier and the Miami Dolphins, by moving from pick three, I sincerely hope you have not messed this up in getting the best non-QB in this year’s draft and potential perennial All-Pro Offensive skill position player. Here is me praying Pitts is still on the board at 6 and we see him in Aqua and Orange giving Tua Tagovailoa the weapon he deserves in Year 2.
Get ready for 10 years worth of highlight reel Kyle Pitts moments in the NFL and good luck to the other 31 defensive coordinators in trying to stop him.