2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Kyle Pitts (Fantasy Football)
Welcome back to another prospect profile, Footclan!
With Super Bowl 55 behind us, we can now fully focus on analyzing this upcoming rookie class. We know that 2020’s tight end class was very underwhelming. Fortunately, the 2021 TE class is much more intriguing and should provide us with a few fantasy-relevant options. At the very top of most TE draft boards should be none other than Kyle Pitts out of Florida. Boasting an impressive athletic and production profile coming out of college, it would not surprise me if Pitts is taken as a top-10 pick in this year’s draft.
Let’s dive in and analyze Pitts’ film, college metrics, and production profile to assess how effective he can be at the next level.
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2021 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the brand-new UDK+ for 2021.
College Production Profile
Pitts had a productive three-year career at Florida, finishing with 100 receptions, 1,492 receiving yards, and 18 touchdowns in 24 games. After a quiet freshman season, he would assume the starting TE role in his second year, flashing some of the big-play ability and athleticism that make him such an intriguing prospect. He would finish his Sophomore year with a respectable 15% dominator rating and a 12% total yards market share in 13 games.
In 2020, Pitts would take it up to 100 and cement his stock as the top TE in this class. In only eight games, he would produce more yards (770) on fewer receptions (43) than his sophomore year. He would also exceed his touchdown numbers from the prior season, scoring 12 times on an impressive 38% receiving TD market share. He would finish the 2020 season with a 31% dominator rating, operating as the focal point of the Gators’ passing offense. What I love about his profile is how productive he has been at an extremely young age, entering the draft as the youngest TE and WR in this class. In addition, his 18.9 breakout age ranks in the 95th percentile among all college TEs, according to PlayerProfiler. Factor in his versatile skill set and athletic ability, and I truly expect Pitts to be taken very early in the 2021 NFL draft.
40-yard dash (HS)
Coming in at 6’6” and 246 lbs, per Sports Reference, Kyle Pitts has excellent measurables for a TE. While he might have a slightly lighter frame (more on that later), his athletic measurements are very similar to that of a T.J. Hockenson. Coming out of Iowa, Hockenson measured in at around 6’5” and 243 lbs, while also running a 4.70 40-yard dash. And while Pitts’ speed score of 100.8 is above average (estimated based on his HS numbers), it would be very encouraging to see him improve on his 40-yard time prior to the draft. Regardless, Pitts should have enough burst and acceleration to outrun most linebackers at the next level. And if he does line up against a quicker defensive back, he can use his size to gain separation. Couple his physical traits with his versatility as a receiver, and you have one of the most dynamic college TEs we have seen in recent history.
What’s on Tape
If you followed along with my weekly Dynasty Report, you might already be familiar with my film-evaluation process. In short, I try to watch 4 to 6 games per player, analyzing every snap in each of those games. Let’s dive into Kyle Pitt’s tape and analyze how productive he can be for fantasy managers at the next level.
Games Viewed: Ole Miss (2020), Kentucky (2020), Missouri (2020, South Carolina (2020), Alabama (2020)
1. Pitts is a mismatch nightmare for defenses due to his athleticism, size, and ability to line up outside and in the slot.
Pitts possesses outstanding speed for someone his size, which makes him a difficult matchup no matter where he lines up. If you watch his film, you will immediately notice that he is not just an in-line or H-back tight end. Florida used him frequently in the slot, and even as an outside receiver. There were very few LBs that could keep up with Pitts’ savvy route running, and there were even fewer CBs who could handle the physicality of his game.
The play below exemplifies how difficult it is to guard Pitts. Lined up outside against a corner, the DB tries to press him towards the sideline and prevent him from executing his route. Pitts uses his physicality to get around the corner while effortlessly reeling in the catch. Utilizing his speed and acceleration, he runs another 10 yards before the DB is able to take him down.
2. Pitts possesses outstanding ball tracking skills, which makes him a sure-handed option for his future QB.
In the five games that I watched, not once did I see Pitts drop the ball. He was a reliable target for Kyle Trask, displaying maximum effort on nearly every receiving play. Pitts was also outstanding at keeping his eyes on the ball, making adjustments mid-route for some acrobatic catches. Because of his ball-tracking abilities and size, double teams and contested situations were rarely a problem for the athletic receiver. Per PFF, Pitts leads all TEs since 2014 in contested catches with 25. Simply put, if you throw the ball in his vicinity, Pitts will more often than not make a play for the reception.
3. Pitts is a smooth and versatile route-runner.
You have likely heard others describe Pitts as an oversized wide receiver. That’s because his movement and route-running resemble that of a savvy receiver. Pitts’ route tree is fairly advanced for a TE, which allows him to line up all over the field. He has the athleticism to execute slant routes, post routes, curl routes, and double moves – to only name a few that I saw on tape. Combine his route running with his physicality, and defenders were rarely able to keep up with Pitts.
Take a look at the following play against Kentucky. Once again, Pitts is the intended target for Kyle Trask in the red zone. Lined up in the slot, he does an outstanding job of selling the dig route, forcing the DB to defend the middle of the field. With two efficient steps, he reverses the play into an out route where he is wide open for an easy touchdown. With his proficient route-running, he should be a versatile weapon for any offense in the NFL.
What’s Not on Tape
1. While he is a very capable blocker, he can be inconsistent with his effort in that facet of his game.
I will preface this segment by saying that Kyle Pitts has very few holes in his game. The one aspect that I would like to see him improve on, however, is his consistency when blocking. As I mentioned above, he is a very capable blocker that displays great effort and balance. There were plenty of plays where he would square up, keep his feet moving, and seal the pass rusher to protect his QB. Unfortunately, there were also a few plays in his tape where he would either give up on the block a little too easily, or he would simply miss his assignment. Below is one of those examples.
Lined up to the right of the offensive line, the pass rusher beats him with very little resistance. With his RB also unable to block the defender, Kyle Trask was sacked to end the quarter. As a young TE, Pitts will have to make sure to avoid these mistakes. Especially in a situation where your team is down by multiple scores, you want your every-down tight end to protect his QB when it matters the most.
2. Pitts has plenty of size, though adding a few lbs to his frame might help with his transition to the NFL.
Once again, this is a very minor concern, but Pitts could benefit from adding more pounds to his frame heading into the NFL. If we compare him to the likes of George Kittle and Travis Kelce, both TEs weigh about 5 to 15 lbs more while measuring one or two inches less. Per 247 Sports, coming out of Archbishop Wood High School in Pennsylvania, Pitts only weighed 235 lbs, which means he gained about 10 lbs in his 3-year collegiate career. If he is able to make a similar transformation in his first few years in the league, it could help improve his blocking against NFL-caliber pass rushers. If he can eclipse that 250 or 255 lb mark, he should have plenty of size to excel at the next level.
2021 Fantasy Outlook
Over the last three seasons, we have seen a high correlation (R2 of 53.3%) between TE slot snaps and fantasy points per game. That is why players like Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, and Darren Waller have been very productive for fantasy over the last few years. Similarly, Kyle Pitts could be the next great fantasy TE simply because of his projected usage as a slot and outside receiver. And considering the draft capital that will be invested in Pitts, he should become an immediate contributor for his new NFL team.
In redraft leagues, Pitts could be a great mid-to-late round TE with several veterans likely going ahead of him. For dynasty rookie drafts, his ADP will vary from league to league. While I would not draft Pitts before any of the top RBs and WRs in this class, there are some in the dynasty community that would argue the opposite. Regardless of where you decide to draft him in your leagues, Pitts should be a safe prospect with a massive ceiling in all fantasy formats.