A tight end will never quite have the value of a wide receiver or an offensive lineman from a pure positional standpoint, but tight ends who can create mismatches at the NFL level are precious. That’s the kind of edge that Florida tight end and top NFL Draft prospect Kyle Pitts provides. Pitts is a rare prototype who will create opportunities for one lucky NFL offense in 2021.
Kyle Pitts NFL Draft Profile
Position: Tight End
For a long time, the Florida Gators were known for fielding elite defensive units year in and year out. On the flip side, however, they rarely rose past mediocrity on offense. Kyle Pitts has been one of the key agents charged with facilitating a shift in tendency. Early in 2020, he’s ushering in a new era of offensive brilliance for Dan Mullen’s squad.
Pitts has always had the potential, but there was a time when the fanfare didn’t quite match. Coming out of high school, Pitts was one of the top prospects at the tight end position, but he was only a four-star recruit and came in at 154th overall on ESPN’s 2018 recruiting board.
Being a four-star recruit is by no means a disappointment, but Kyle Pitts was second to fellow 2021 NFL Draft prospect Brevin Jordan, who plays for the Miami Hurricanes. Before his collegiate career, evaluators chose Jordan over Pitts, and in the 2021 NFL Draft, they’ll have a similar decision to make — only this time, Pitts may have the upper hand.
Pitts saw playing time as a true freshman for Florida, catching three passes for 73 yards and a score. Right there, he showed a flash of his big-play ability, and in 2019, his sophomore season, he was unleashed in his entirety. His rise coinciding with an uptick in quarterback play, Pitts became a premier weapon in the SEC, logging 54 catches for 649 yards and five scores.
Even before attaining his draft eligibility, Pitts had become a star on college football’s biggest stage, and his early performance in 2020 has shown that he’s far from finished.
Kyle Pitts catalyzes Florida comeback in SEC Championship
The Florida Gators didn’t come away with the SEC Championship win, but they rallied from a double-digit deficit and made it close toward the end. One of the key catalysts for the team’s comeback was tight end Kyle Pitts. Yet again, Pitts distinguished himself as a matchup nightmare in the passing game.
Pitts had seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown on the day, with most of that production coming in the second half. All the hallmarks of a standard Kyle Pitts game were present. There was an acrobatic catch. There were contested catches. Elite acceleration. Unnatural body control and toughness. At this point, we know what to expect. It’s almost not even worth the update.
Nevertheless, there is value in reinforcing Pitts’ strength as a prospect. Pitts is a rare athlete and a rare receiver talent. Although he’s listed as a tight end, you can line him up anywhere and expect him to win. His amalgamation of traits, from his speed and his burst to his length and his contortion ability, makes him a threat no matter where he ends up.
Pitts’ receiving ability is by far his most important asset, but Pitts also showed some progression as a run blocker on Saturday. Twice, Pitts made blocks on the goal line that helped the Gators reach the end zone. Pitts hasn’t been the most consistent blocker in the past, and NFL teams shouldn’t waste his talents on blocking reps when they can line him up as a pass-catcher. But regardless, Pitts showed good things in that department, and it only makes his profile even stronger.
Kyle Pitts has the ability to make uncatchable passes catchable
By now, we’ve come to expect dominant performances from Kyle Pitts, and this past week, he delivered yet again, with a seven-reception, 128-yard outing against the Tennessee Volunteers. Pitts now has 36 catches for 641 yards and 11 scores with two regular season contests left to play, against LSU and Alabama.
Pitts often elicits comparisons to Las Vegas Raiders star tight end Darren Waller for his combination of size and athleticism, but Pitts also brings incredible suddenness at the position. From my view, he has the potential to be arguably more impactful than Waller at the catch point in the NFL.
NFL potential showcased versus Tennessee
Against Tennessee, Pitts showcased both of these competencies in exciting fashion. The two plays I highlighted in the college football live game day blog perhaps exemplified his strengths best. On one play, Pitts used a searing stutter step to get open with limited space. On another, he used his outrageous length and body control to haul in a high pass from Kyle Trask.
Pitts’ ability to make uncatchable passes catchable, to me, is what truly makes his profile unique. Plenty of top-tier athletes at tight end can’t convert consistently on their opportunities. Pitts is very instinctive when using his length and his hands, and he has the sheer strength and authority as a catcher to pry passes away in contested situations.
As I said in the blog, Pitts is an absolute beast. One shouldn’t deal in absolutes when talking about the NFL Draft, but with Kyle Pitts, we can make an exception.
Just another routine multi-touchdown performance for Kyle Pitts vs. Kentucky
The Florida Gators’ offense has been clicking all year. When Kyle Pitts is available, it’s clear that an entirely new dimension becomes available to Kyle Trask and Dan Mullen. Pitts again affirmed his otherworldly physical traits in the team’s 34-10 victory over the Kentucky Wildcats, logging five receptions for 99 yards and three scores.
Kyle Pitts finds more ways to impress
Pitts’ latest outing is his third in 2020 with two or more touchdowns. His season totals now add up to 29 catches, 513 yards, and 11 touchdowns. Pitts is finding the end zone on over one-third of his catches, and this past Saturday, how he succeeded was just as impressive as his statistical output.
We’ve gushed about the Florida tight end’s size-athleticism combination, his body control, and his hands all year. On Saturday, though, Pitts won primarily with his route running. Route running isn’t the first thing that comes to mind with Pitts, but Saturday’s game showed Pitts can excel in about every facet of the game.
Pitts started downfield from an in-line position on his first touchdown and entered a one-on-one matchup with Wildcats cornerback Kelvin Joseph. Pitts approached Joseph head-on, then got the defensive back off-balance with a crisp double move. From there, he used his quick acceleration ability to slip around Joseph and corral an accurate pass from Trask. From there, Pitts used his speed to outrun Joseph — who’s expected to run around a 4.5 — and reach the end zone.
Making plays in tight windows
Just as the Florida tight end displayed his ability to use an excess of space on his deep touchdown reception, Pitts also showed the ability to create space in condensed situations with his other two scoring catches. Both catches were nabbed in the red zone, where Pitts is just as lethal.
Pitts executed a simple slant route on the first catch, stuttering into the break and then exploding inside, sneaking past the linebacker. He then used his seven-inch advantage on the cornerback to box out his defender and hauled in the pass with his long arms. Pitts executed a pivot route on his second red zone touchdown, quickly selling an inside dig before breaking back outside. His initial inside break sold the cornerback, and Pitts used his fluidity to turn the corner in the open zone as the ball came his way.
Pitts’ physical traits undoubtedly garner the most attention, but lost in that excitement is how detailed Pitts is as well. His route running is crisp and smooth, and he understands how to use head fakes and abrupt motions to sell defenders on feigned advances. Pitts’ ability to get defensive backs off-balance, combined with his sheer length and dominance at the catch point, equates to a foolproof equation for offensive success.
It also shouldn’t be overlooked that Pitts is winning one-on-one matchups against boundary cornerbacks over whom he has a height advantage of five-to-seven inches. He projects as a nightmarish wide receiver-tight end combo. At this point, he’s starting to run away with the TE1 mantle.
Kyle Pitts’ presence alone unsettles defensive backs
If a player is a rare enough talent, the players around him respond to his presence in unique ways. Such was the case in Kyle Pitts’ brief yet imposing showing in Week 10 against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Pitts gets the most attention for the plays he makes individually, and rightfully so. But early on against Georgia, it was clear that he served a purpose, even when he didn’t see the ball come his way. Pitts’ presence alone dictates a great deal of attention for a defense, and early on in the first half, Pitts helped open up big-play opportunities for both Keon Zipperer and Justin Shorter, the latter of which was a touchdown.
Taking advantage of individual matchups
Pitts often draws multiple defenders on a given play, but a defense can do that only so often. He inevitably found himself in one-on-one situations as well, and unsurprisingly, he excelled. Pitts is the perfect example of a player using his length correctly. Not all players with length check that box, but Pitts supplements his size with innate body control, ball-tracking ability, high-point timing, and sheer strength at the catch point.
In the red zone against lengthy 6-foot-2 cornerback Tyson Campbell, it wasn’t just Pitts’ size that made the difference. While Campbell showed hesitance and appeared unfocused at the catch point, Pitts rose up for the ball and secured it with complete and total authority. It’s the presence that Pitts has, both passive and active that makes him such a special player.
Unfortunately, midway through the second quarter, after notching two catches for 59 yards and a touchdown, Pitts was taken out of the game by a scary helmet-to-helmet hit. He’s questionable for the team’s next matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Regardless of his upcoming game status, Kyle Pitts has already solidified himself as a superstar on the college football stage and a likely first-round prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Kyle Pitts again displays dominant physical traits against Missouri
NFL Draft prospects require consistency on top of their extraordinary potential to rise into the first-round conversation, and Florida tight end Kyle Pitts has checked both of those boxes so far in 2020.
Against the Missouri Tigers in Florida’s fourth contest of the season, Pitts had another standout performance, logging 81 yards on five catches. He didn’t find the end zone for the first time this year (Kadarius Toney hogged all the touchdowns). Still, he helped the Gators drive down the field on several possessions, particularly in the first half, when Florida established and solidified its lead.
Gravitating towards the WR/TE hybrid mold
Pitts has accurately been advertised as a tight end with unnatural finesse for his 6-foot-6, 246-pound frame. Still, amidst recognizing his unicorn athlete status, his other more intangible traits go unnoticed, such as his receiving toughness and ball tracking ability.
On the Gators’ first offensive drive, Pitts used his dominant length to swipe a defensive back’s arm away after a cut. That nuanced use of his physical reach allowed him to gain separation toward the sideline, where he ultimately hauled in a catch from Kyle Trask. Later, Pitts again used his precise physicality to gain a step on a defender and completed the play by successfully securing an over-the-shoulder catch down the sideline.
Pitts’ combination of his size and athleticism is his most marketable trait, but don’t forget his hand fighting ability and focus at the catch point. Pitts has several other supplemental traits that help him efficiently use his athleticism, and it’s that complete pallet of tools that could crown him as TE1 by year’s end, especially with Pat Freiermuth‘s relatively slow start.
Kyle Pitts’ Week 6 play highlighted by reliable red zone production
Kyle Pitts’ stat line against the Texas A&M Aggies in Week 6 was his worst yet in 2020 — but that’s not saying much. Pitts still snagged five catches for 47 yards and the routine touchdown. He now has 17 receptions for 274 yards and a whopping seven scores in just three games. He’s finding the end zone on over 40% of his catches, already eclipsing his touchdown number from 2019.
Pitts’ skill set is conducive to success all across the field, but in Pitts’ Week 6 showdown, it was his red zone prowess that stood out. Pitts used his unnatural suddenness to gain separation in the end zone, then used his toughness and length to high-point a pass from Kyle Trask, withstanding contact from converging defenders. The Florida tight end’s complete toolbox is a sight to behold. Yet, in the red zone, the 6-foot-6 pass-catcher is particularly imposing.
Kyle Pitts making a bid to be the best tight end in the NFL Draft
Coming into the 2020 season, there was a clear-cut trio at the top of the 2021 NFL Draft tight end class: Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth, Miami’s Brevin Jordan, and Florida’s Kyle Pitts. Before the onset of the 2020 college football season, it was hard to find a consensus opinion on who led this group, but slowly and surely, Pitts is gaining control of the TE1 mantle.
It helps that Pat Freiermuth is yet to see the field, as of this article’s writing. It also helps that Brevin Jordan missed Miami’s fifth game with an injury and hasn’t benefitted from the same caliber of quarterback play. But watching Pitts individually, it’s clear that he has no one to thank for his success but himself — well, and maybe his parents.
Taking stock of Pitts’ special build
Genetically, Kyle Pitts is an absurd athlete. Kyle Pitts measures in at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, but he moves with the grace and the suddenness of a wide receiver, not a tight end. He has excellent change-of-direction skills. His explosiveness out of breaks is also top-tier for his position, allowing him to generate ample separation against linebackers.
Pitts also maximizes his size-athleticism combination with impressive toughness, ball tracking ability, and body contortion capacity; he can make inaccurate passes accurate with his wingspan and flexibility. He can contort to accommodate those kinds of passes with insane quickness and balance.
If you place an increased emphasis on blocking at the tight end position, you may desire more from the Florida star, who is somewhat inconsistent in that area and doesn’t have the strength or density to be a force. But as a receiver, which is the primary function of tight ends in the modern NFL, Pitts has elite size, athleticism, and the over-arching versatility to be a matchup nightmare anywhere from the line of scrimmage to the boundary.
Kyle Pitts’ best fits in the NFL
In truth, any team would likely benefit from Pitts’ presence in their offensive cast, but not every team will have the opportunity to select Pitts in the 2021 NFL Draft. If he keeps up his current pace, Pitts likely won’t last past the first round. If he does, he’ll be one of the first picks off the board on Day 2.
With that being said, the Florida tight end would likely perform best if he goes to a team that targets TEs often and moves around TEs to utilize their versatility best. Plenty of teams have a baseline need for a player like Pitts, but creative offensive minds would have a field day sifting through the mismatches that Pitts provides.
Teams like the Colts, Cardinals, and Panthers would be especially exciting as NFL Draft suitors for Kyle Pitts. Other teams such as the Bengals, Patriots, Football Team, and Cowboys would also provide opportunities for Pitts to thrive.