The first 2021 prospect I want to discuss is Florida tight end Kyle Pitts. Although I say tight end — he’s very much a receiving threat in the Gators offense.
Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth looks like a more orthodox TE. Everything about his playing style to demeanour says classic ‘Y’ tight end with the ability to be a plus pass catcher. He’s a sub-7.10 three cone away from being a very high pick.
Teams who want that more conventional looking TE will possibly favour Freiermuth. However — we’re seeing a real craving for mismatch weapons in the league and Pitts is highly dynamic.
The big question is going to be testing. When you’re essentially a glorified receiver — you need to have a certain level of athleticism. Watching his 2019 games, that shouldn’t be an issue. He looks like a fantastic athlete with rare mobility for his size.
The first thing that stands out is his fluidity as a runner at 6-6 240lbs. He ran a 4.70 at SPARQ at the same height/weight and watching him on tape, it’s likely he can get into the 4.6’s.
Just look at this release…
He’s practically unstoppable on in-cutting routes and slants. Florida has the option to line him up initially in a favourable coverage match-up, then motion him to the outside. From there he can win time and time again. His quickness and suddenness at his size creates easy victories against a safety or linebacker and he has plenty of success against cornerbacks too when he simply starts as an outside target. He’s also a genuine mismatch target working the seam or on wheel routes.
Against LSU he matched up against Grant Delpit and beat him fairly easily on an elongated wheel route. It took an age for him to get forward motion into the route but that was OK — he can create separation and accelerate quickly. Delpit — who was one of the better coverage safeties in college football — just couldn’t react.
He had a lot of success working the middle of the field against LSU too. He should’ve had a touchdown on a seam route but this time Delpit jarred the ball out with a big hit. Pitts should’ve held on and completed the catch for a score but it was a nice recovery by the LSU safety. The route itself though was a good example of his ability to get downfield quickly and when you need to cover him in a wide open area — it’s very difficult for any non-cornerback to stick. He has subtle movement at the stem to create separation and he can just run faster than most players in coverage. He had a lot of wins against a good LSU defense over the middle and he’ll be a major threat attacking the seam. He’s really difficult to cover in zone.
It’s a sign of his athleticism that they tried him as a ball carrier on some WR screens. He’s too quick and dynamic for safeties and linebackers but he’s also stronger and bigger to win any contested situations against cornerbacks.
His mobility as a runner has to be seen to be believed. His sudden, choppy movement at 240lbs is rare. There’s no stiffness at all. He can make defenders miss, he can create late separation on routes and he has some YAC value.
His hands are generally good and strong. There were plenty of examples of throws that were slightly off or into a tight window but he clung on…
I saw one really bad concentration drop yet in the same game Van Jefferson also had an ugly whiff. I didn’t see any evidence to think this was anything more than a one-off.
Despite being very much a glorified receiver, he does have some in-line experience. Usually these types of tight end are just constantly in the slot or outside. He was asked to do a bit of blocking either next to the tackle or as a H-back. When blocking on screens he generally does a good job latching on to targets in space. You wouldn’t call blocking a strength for him but he’s willing. He’s more Noah Fant than T.J. Hockenson in that regard — but he’s such a terrific receiving threat and athlete, the team who drafts him likely won’t be worrying too much about that aspect of his game unless, like the Seahawks, it’s a major part of what you do on offense.
He ran a 4.45 short shuttle at SPARQ which would put him about on par with most of the better TE testers in the league. Clearly the three cone will have a big say on his stock. Yet as noted — he’s such a free mover that it’d almost be surprising if he didn’t get into the 6.9’s to really propel his stock into the top-20.
One issue he might have at Florida is the performance of quarterback Kyle Trask. I thought his accuracy in 2019 was patchy at best. Floated and high passes, throws behind targets. Trask came in at a difficult time and won games for Florida, so he deserves credit. But he’s not the kind of accomplished passer to enable Pitts to gain 800 yards and increase his touchdown total next year to really elevate his stock.
It might not matter. Noah Fant had 519 yards in his final year at Iowa and still landed in the top-20. Pitts looks like a similar level of athlete. Teams love these big-time mismatch weapons at the second level. Very few of these players are going to be able to block as well as George Kittle, Travis Kelce or Rob Gronkowski — but it’s easy to talk yourself into believing in them as a receiving threat.
Alongside Pitts will be Penn State’s Freiermuth, Miami’s Brevin Jordan and Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson — with 2021 looking like a much improved class at the tight end position. When you combine it with another loaded looking receiver class — this is going to be another draft where we’re talking about the great pass-catching options.
You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.