By: Cody Molla (Twitter: @cmolla1)
The NFL regular season has officially wrapped up and more than half the draft slots are set. It’s never too early to evaluate NFL prospects and project their draft position and team fits.
Each year guys climb and fall down draft boards. One of the climbers this year is Kyle Pitts. Pitts is listed as a TE for the Florida Gators, but essentially a TE that could excel far beyond much of the 2021 WR draft class.
The junior TE is listed at 6’6 and 245 pounds. Pitts used his big frame, great ball skills, and excellent athletic ability this season to climb to the top of the TE prospect list.
In eight games, Pitts dominated SEC competition. This was showcased in the SEC championship game vs Alabama as he had 7 grabs for 129 yards and a score. He totaled 12 TDs and 770 in limited action this year. Pitts production has earned him a spot as a John Mackey Award finalist. The Mackey Award is given to the best TE across the NCAA.
Pitts’ ability as a TE is not limited to lining up in line with his hand on the ground. He’s shown the ability to play outside and win matchups and use his size to win jump balls, as well as lining up in the slot and getting separation from linebackers to win routes in multiple levels.
Incredibly productive, teams will definitely be looking to take Pitts, as “some” refer to him as the best receiving talent in the class this year. Here are three team fits for Kyle Pitts.
New England Patriots
Kyle Pitts to the Patriots would immediately draw comparisons to what the possibility of an elite TE in a Josh McDaniels offense can do. The Patriots’ lack of receiving production has been well documented as of late. On the season the Patriots only had 12 passing TDs. Five of those were caught by WRs and TEs. This is due to Cam Newton’s struggles with throwing, but he will not be playing QB in New England next year for the time being. Another reason for the struggles is the lack of solid pass catchers.
Jakobi Meyers was their leading WR this season. The young WR showed promise and skills in 2020 but he’s not going to be a true number one option that can carry an offense in crunch time. Meyers totaled a team-high 729 yards on 59 catches this year. Other pass catchers on the team currently include Julian Edelman who underwent season-ending knee surgery after six games played this season. Edelman has one year left on his contract or he could be cut to save cap space. They likely ask the veteran to return simply due to the lack of talent at the position and to mentor the young receiving core. Edelman’s body has surely broken down and he won’t be getting healthier as he continues to play. Edelman’s reliable production is sure to decline if he returns.
The only big WR on the Patriots roster is N’Keal Harry who has yet to deliver the promise as a first-round pick. After getting early looks in the 2020 season they simply moved on from him to Meyers as the best option in the offense. Harry was the leading WR in TDs for the team with two. He also had 33 catches for just over 300 yards. The Patriots drafted two TEs last year in the third round but together they produced five catches for 55 yards. Their best TE was Ryan Izzo who is also not a true threat in the passing game. He finished with 13 catches for 199 yards. The need for an elite pass-catcher is present.
Pitts’ ability to play in the slot or outside will address the need to fill WR as well as play with big sets as a TE in the offense. With multiple opt-outs on the Patriots defense this past year the defense wasn’t ever at their peak capability. The fact that they will have guys returning on that side of the ball allows them to draft a top tier offensive threat. Whoever is playing QB for them next year will appreciate the ability Pitts brings and would likely become one of their top pass catchers. Pitts is too fast for linebackers and too big for safeties.
With improved defense within the Patriots division, they need skill players who can make an impact. Pitts for the Patriots will bring back optimism in the Patriots’ offense. Grabbing a top offensive threat at 15th overall would be a win for New England and create a building block.
New York Jets
The Jets are in need of many positions including a coach. One thing they can’t deny they need is playmakers. The Jets have two first-round picks this year. One is their own which is slotted at number two overall and they have the rights to Seattle’s first-round pick via the Jamal Adams trade. With the number two pick, the Jets will either take a QB if they decide to part with Darnold, or they will take Sewell who appears to be hands-down the best player not at QB.
If the Jets decide that Darnold is the guy and Sewell doesn’t fit their eyes, they could trade down. This is unlikely but it’s possible. They drafted Mekhi Becton last year who is a capable offensive tackle and played well in his limited rookie year. If the Jets sign an additional offensive tackle in the offseason they will have that position filled as well. Thus, the Jets could trade down to a later spot in the top 10 and add additional first or second-round picks. A likely trade would be to move down to fifth overall with the Bengals. Who desperately needs guys up front to protect Burrow.
With Seattle’s pick likely late in the first round, Pitts may not be available then. The Jets could use this pick to trade up into a position to draft Pitts. They will likely have to trade draft capital which they do own. They have the 34th, 66th, and 91st pick to use as leverage. They may also get additional picks from trading the second down if they choose that route.
With one of their picks, they should look to get a playmaker and Kyle Pitts fits that mold. Pitts would become the biggest receiving option on the team with his height and weight. The Jets don’t have a playmaker at the TE position right now with Herndon. In 16 games this year, Herndon caught 31 passes for 287 yards and 3 TDs. Getting Pitts in the offense would add a QB friendly player as well as a future Sunday star who has the ability and tools to become a premier TE.
The Jets have so many needs all over so it’s a mystery where they will go and what they decide at QB is the key to it all. I think Darnold is a viable option at QB and a piece to build around. Sam has shown promise, and if the proper coach can mesh his skills with Sam the Jets may have their franchise QB. Every young QB needs their security blanket. The 6’6 Pitts fits that mold as a big reliable option.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers hit the jackpot with their number one pick last year in Herbert. Herbert looks like a future star at the QB position with continued development.
Herbert’s number one option is Keenan Allen, outside of that the options have struggled to stay on the field. Ekeler has been productive but his size and physical run style have taken him off the field for games here and there. Mike Williams is an athletic big WR who has had a deep injury history and is always missing games for injury.
Hunter Henry is an upcoming free agent and he will likely have multiple suitors outside of the Chargers. Henry departing will leave a void in TE and leaves Herbert without one of his favorite targets. Henry caught 60 passes in 14 games this year but was targeted 93 times. The 93 targets were second-most on the team behind Keenan Allens 147.
Kyle Pitts can fill that every down TE role in place of Henry and give another big athletic pass catcher for Herbert. Pitts will be able to fill Henry’s role as they are almost twins in stature. Both guys run a similar 40 time as well. If it’s not Pitts at TE next year the Chargers will have Donald Parham or Stephen Anderson starting. Pitts paired up with a strong-armed QB could be double-digit TDs for years to come!
The Chargers needs include offensive linemen, cornerbacks, and receiving threats. Given the age of the Chargers players at cornerback and offensive line, they will need to get younger talent at those positions. However, the best prospects available will likely be gone at CB and the offensive linemen behind Sewell may not be as good of value as Pitts. By no means are they settling with Pitts. Pitts is very good and projects to be a prototype of the dominant TEs in the NFL now.