NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2020. This is the 10th in a series of scouting reports that will run throughout the offseason.
It's very hard to be a dominant offense in today's NFL without a special talent at the tight end position. Think about teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens. Each of them have mismatch players at the position, and it creates easy completions for their quarterbacks. This upcoming draft class has the potential to be very deep at tight end. One player at the position who's already generating a lot of buzz is Florida's Kyle Pitts. Here's my scouting report after studying him this week:
Height, weight: 6-foot-6, 239 pounds (school measurements).
2019 statistics: 54 catches for 649 yards (12.0 average) and five touchdowns.
Game tape watched: Tennessee (Sept. 21, 2019), LSU (Oct. 12, 2019), Georgia (Nov. 2, 2019).
What I liked: Pitts is tall, long and ultra athletic. His versatility allows the Gators to use him in a variety of alignments. He gets a lot of reps as an inline tight end, but he will also play on the wing, flex out in the slot or split all the way out to the perimeter of the formation. He uses an arch release to free himself from the line of scrimmage and he gains ground quickly with his long, smooth stride. He's outstanding stretching the seam and isn't afraid to extend for the ball in traffic.
I was impressed with Pitts' nuance at the top of his route. He doesn't just take grass. He understands how to stem up defenders and create separation. He doesn't display any hip or ankle stiffness, and his catch radius is outstanding (SEE: TD vs. Tennessee). He is a weapon in the red zone.
Where he needs to improve: Pitts needs to add strength and bulk to benefit his efforts as a blocker. I love the willingness he displays at the point of attack, but he simply gets overpowered too often by bigger, stronger edge defenders. He has the athleticism to cut off defenders and create somewhat of a stalemate on the back side, but he gets bullied on the play side in the run game. I do believe he has the ability to improve in this area. His arm length and effort are positives. Once he gets stronger, I think he could emerge as an asset instead of a liability in this department.
He also needs to improve his ability to adjust to balls on his back hip. Throws to that area are always difficult to catch, but he needs to get better at it. Some of the issues are related to concentration. There are times when he's looking to run with the ball before completing the catch. He can improve in this area, though.
Biggest takeaway: Pitts stands out against the best competition at the collegiate level. In the LSU game last season, he beat one of the top cornerbacks (Derek Stingley Jr.) and one of the best safeties (Grant Delpit) in the country. I love his athleticism, but I was even more impressed with his instincts and savvy as a route runner. He understands how to work and settle in space versus zone coverage and he also has a good feel for attacking the leverage of his defender. That bodes well for his adjustment to the NFL game.
He reminds me of: I see a lot of similarities to the Las Vegas Raiders' Darren Waller when I study Pitts. Waller played wide receiver during his college career at Georgia Tech, and Pitts sees plenty of reps on the outside in Florida's offense. Both guys can really stretch the field and their length creates huge targets for their quarterbacks. They can each use their speed to create separation on deep crossers and they pull away from defenders after the catch. Waller is still improving in the run game and I expect we'll see similar gains from Pitts as he gets bigger/stronger. Overall, Waller is one of the top-tier tight ends in the game today and I see similar upside with Pitts.