The playmaker revolution on offense in the NFL can’t go unopposed. The onus is now on the defenses of the NFL to acquire and develop the kind of talent that can wreak havoc on multifaceted offenses. Can Baylor S Jalen Pitre, with his 2022 NFL Draft scouting report, be that kind of chess piece for a defense?
Jalen Pitre NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Baylor
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 197 pounds
Jalen Pitre Scouting Report
The Baylor Bears have experienced a defensive renaissance under head coach Dave Aranda. Over the past two seasons, the Bears’ defensive units have morphed into a suffocating spectacle. And one of the most important players on that unit is Pitre.
Labels like “defensive back” and “safety” are mere procedural titles for Pitre. The Baylor star truly lines up everywhere in the box. On many plays, you can find him rushing off the edge or sidestepping blockers and making stops against the run. But he can also drop back and make plays in coverage as well. What is Pitre’s projection in the NFL? Does he have the near-limitless potential of a true modern hybrid?
Jalen Pitre’s athletic profile
On the surface, Pitre doesn’t look like a modern hybrid. He’s undersized for that mold — listed at just 6’0″, 197 pounds. He should be able to add weight to his frame in the NFL, but he’ll always appear somewhat undersized when working the box.
The good news for Pitre, however, is that he no doubt compensates with his physicality. Pitre plays larger than his frame, and his play strength is better than expected. He’s willing to square up with larger blockers and maintain gap discipline. He can also brush past chipping tight ends and swallow up plays in the backfield. Pitre is a violent player in close quarters, and he doesn’t let size mismatches intimidate him.
Pitre further compensates with his athleticism. The Baylor defender is a springy athlete in the short range. He has impressive, sudden lateral twitch, and he’s incredibly explosive and rangy in pursuit. When he recognizes plays, he’s relentless. He explodes into the backfield and can track down plays from behind. Simply put, Pitre is a heat-seeking missile in the box who plays with torrid speed and pace.
With his quick twitch, Pitre also showcases the ability to adapt quickly as plays progress. He uses frantic but composed and efficient footwork in the box to maintain positioning. Additionally, Pitre appears to have good hip fluidity, and he sinks his hips well into direction changes.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Athletically, Pitre passes the necessary thresholds. But his execution makes him one of the most exciting players in the 2022 NFL Draft. He is an aggressive, proactive playmaker who processes and triggers with rare quickness. He’s an elite hustle player whose sheer tenacity and play pace allows him to make plays that others don’t.
Pitre’s instincts are excellent and a vital piece of his game. He plays fast but knows when to slow up, maintain his positioning, and control his throttle. He’s excellent at adjusting his angles at a moment’s notice with quick twitch and footwork. And he can also sell angles to blockers and evade blocks with that same lateral quickness and targeted physicality.
Going further, Pitre can instinctively swim through congestion and track down ball carriers. He takes great angles as a tackler more often than not and brings intense closing burst to the contact point. In coverage, Pitre’s eyes follow the quarterback, and he can effectively identify misdirections and maintain discipline. Furthermore, his explosiveness and quick stimuli enable him to click and close, swiftly negating short routes.
Pitre’s pass defense is more of a projection, but the Baylor safety has good route recognition ability and spatial awareness in zone. He can identify concepts and adapt quickly, and he’s shown he has enough speed and fluidity to carry certain receivers downfield and recover ground. He flashes ball skills at the catch point as well. As an extra rusher, he actively uses his hands to rip down anchors and reach the quarterback.
Areas for improvement
Pitre brings a lot to the table, but there are imperfections to make note of. Most notably, Pitre’s size does hinder him at times. His smaller frame sometimes impacts his ability to wrap up as a tackler. He can also get knocked back by larger blockers and sometimes struggles to disengage blocks in a timely manner. Offensive linemen can easily negate him once he gives up surface area.
Beyond Pitre’s size, there are more issues. Although the Baylor product has upside in coverage, he’s more of a work in progress there. He can better apply fast feet and agility in man coverage. He doesn’t have a ton of experience in off or press man, and his footwork can visibly improve in those areas.
Furthermore, Pitre can improve his technique at route stems. He sometimes gives players too much cushion and doesn’t always play with proper leverage. His transitions aren’t always smooth in the open field, either. He sometimes loses his balance when flipping his hips, resulting in delays. Additionally, Pitre can get grabby at times when trying to match receivers off breaks.
Among other things, Pitre isn’t quite as instinctive in the deep third. He doesn’t always get proper depth. Moreover, the Baylor safety might not have elite top-end speed in that area. He occasionally overpursues and misses tackles, sometimes getting fooled by option plays with his aggressiveness.
Jalen Pitre’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
The most common hang-up with Pitre’s profile will be this — where does he play at the next level? He’s noticeably small for a player who lines up in the box on a large portion of his plays. And he doesn’t have enough composite experience in coverage to garner full confidence. The translatability questions have merit. However, when you look at the traits, an answer appears — play him everywhere.
The word “everywhere,” of course, comes with a caveat. Pitre probably isn’t someone you want in single-high alignments. But in the slot, on the edge, and at the second level, he brings plenty to the table as a hybrid STAR defender. With his high-end explosiveness and play speed, the Baylor defender can surge into the backfield and earn tackles for loss. He’s incredibly dangerous and disruptive as a blitzer, and he’s not just a space player up close. He matches blockers with physicality, and with his instincts, he has a magnetic attraction to the ball.
Going further, Pitre has the traits to translate in coverage in the short and intermediate ranges. While he can improve his footwork and movement technique, he’s reasonably fluid. He also has great processing speed, positioning, route-recognition ability, and the ball skills to capitalize at the catch point.
With the translatability questions, Pitre is likely relegated to Day 2. But in that range, the team that knows how to use him could get an invaluable defensive catalyst. Pitre is a pure playmaker, with the explosiveness, acute attention to detail, and tenacity to be a constant disruptor. And if he develops in coverage, he can be an eraser up to 20 yards off the line of scrimmage.
Pitre’s Player Profile
The long road to stardom at the college football level can be daunting for some players. When you don’t come onto the scene with much fanfare, that uncertainty only festers. Pitre was a productive high school player, but a knee injury in his junior season diluted his billing as a recruit. So, too, did his status as a box player.
Rated as a three-star recruit in the 2017 class, the product from Stafford, Texas, only fielded offers from two FBS teams — the SMU Mustangs and the Baylor Bears. Pitre ultimately joined the Bears, enrolling in the first year of the Matt Rhule era.
Pitre’s career at Baylor
Despite being undersized and unorthodox in style, Pitre’s playmaking ability earned him early opportunities for the Bears. As a true freshman, he played in 12 games with eight starts, logging 37 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, a sack, and a pass deflection.
Pitre’s early production alluded to future promise, but his 2018 and 2019 seasons were less productive. The Baylor safety logged just 11 tackles and 2 tackles for loss as a sophomore and played in four 2019 games before redshirting due to a nagging shoulder injury. The arrival of Dave Aranda in 2020 could have further clouded Pitre’s standing, as regime changes often do. But instead, it unlocked Pitre’s full potential.
In 2020, Pitre tore apart the Big 12, totaling 60 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, and 2 defensive touchdowns. He was an honorable mention for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Yet, he somehow upped his production in 2021, with 75 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 2 picks, 7 deflections, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries.
This time, Pitre earned the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year title, proudly staking his claim as the best player on a dominant Baylor defense.
Pitre’s 2022 NFL Draft ascension
Part of Pitre’s projection depends on where he winds up. He’s a unique player and would be best with a defensive coordinator that knows how to use him. But the bedrock traits in Pitre’s game should be appealing to most NFL evaluators. Although undersized, Pitre brings elite hustle, along with great explosiveness, instincts, versatility, and physicality. He also projects well in coverage, and with some improvement, he can be an absolute chess piece.
In the modern NFL, Pitre is an appealing fit in the STAR, or hybrid slot role with his versatility. Move him around the box, use him as an extra rusher, put him in the slot, and let him blanket tight ends and running backs in the short and intermediate ranges. Simply use Pitre to create mismatches and disrupt the offense. That’s what he’s best at, as he’s shown for two years. After the Senior Bowl, he likely won’t fall past Day 2 — and in the right place, he can be a star.
Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Jalen Pitre
Positives: Smart, tough defensive back coming off a terrific seven-month span. Displays great recognition, immediately diagnoses the action, and remains disciplined. Breaks down well, effectively uses his hands to protect himself, and sells out to make plays. Gets depth on pass drops, immediately tracks the ball in the air, and correctly times pass defenses.
Displays a burst out of his plant, possesses next-level ball skills, and dives around the field to break up throws. Gives tremendous effort defending the run, possesses a closing burst, and sells out on the blitz.
Negatives: Loses a half step out of his transition when turning to run with opponents. Lacks great speed to the flanks. Easily disrupted by blocks.
Analysis: After a terrific season in 2021, Pitre went on to have three terrific days of practice at the Senior Bowl. Though he lacks great athleticism, he’s a polished safety with a terrific head for the position. Pitre needs work on some of his techniques, though he will be very effective as a zone safety.