2021 NFL draft prospects: Florida TE Kyle Pitts

·5 min read
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Florida TE Kyle Pitts

6-foot-6, 245 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 7.05 — immediate-impact prospect

TL;DR scouting report: Rare mismatch TE with elite athletic traits who is essentially acts a king-sized receiver

Games watched: Georgia (2020), Kentucky (2020), Texas A&M (2020), Alabama (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit, Pitts chose the Gators over Virginia Tech. He saw action in 11 games, mostly on special teams, as a true freshman in 2018, catching three passes for 73 yards, including a 52-yard TD vs. Idaho. In 2019, Pitts earned a starting role after a coaching change and caught 54 passes for 649 yards and five TDs in 13 games (12 starts), earning first-team All-SEC honors. In 2020, he caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 TDs in eight starts, missing three games because of a dirty hit he took against Georgia. He needed surgery on his nose and suffered a concussion. Pitts, who won the John Mackey Award (given to the nation’s top tight end) and earned AP first-team All-America honors, skipped Florida’s bowl game and declared early for the 2021 NFL draft.

Upside: Truly rare physical specimen. Unusual dimensions along with an elite athletic profile for a player this size. Turned in pro-day testing numbers that many smaller wide receivers would pine for — a 4.40-second 40-yard dash (with a 1.55-second 10-yard split), a 33 1/2-inch vertical jump, a 129-inch broad jump and 22 reps on the bench press. Will enter the NFL as one of the most athletically blessed tight ends around.

Tremendous length — a shade under 6-foot-6 with 83 3/8-inch wingspan, which is longer than nearly every offensive tackle in the entire 2021 draft class. Enormous hands (10 5/8 inches) to snag passes and latch on as a blocker.

Incredibly smooth mover — looks and runs like a jumbo wideout. Long strider with excellent build-up speed to attack the seam and attack defenses on the outside. Outstanding, natural separation ability — can run away from linebackers and safeties in man coverage. Sharp cuts at the tops of his routes. Great burst after the catch — 36% of his yards were on YAC.

Faced all kinds of tricked-up coverages — corners in press with safety help, brackets, linebackers chucking him at the line with zone behind it, you name it and he saw it. Beat Georgia CB Tyson Campbell for a touchdown from press coverage on a sail route. Had some great reps vs. Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II.

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 12: Kyle Pitts #84 of the Florida Gators catches a pass as Grant Delpit #7 of the LSU Tigers defends at Tiger Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)
Florida TE Kyle Pitts has All-Pro potential. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)

Contortionist — absurd body control for a man his size, able to twist around to adjust to off-target throws. Leaps over defenders (often without making illegal contact) to haul in jump balls. Uses his body and length to shield DBs and win at the catch point consistently, even vs. double coverage. Excels at contested catches. Improved his hands noticeably — from four dropped passes (on 80 targets) in 2019 to zero drops (on 65 targets) in 2020.

Attacks all three levels of the defense — lethal on slants and fades, which makes him a red-zone nightmare. Effective on back-shoulder balls. Targeted 17 times in 2020 on passes traveling 20-plus yards — racked up 10 catches for 331 yards and five scores. Lined up all over the field. A true mismatch piece not every NFL team will be able to harness in coverage.

Competes as a blocker. Was poor in that department in 2019 but made noticeable strides. Uses his length and base strength to compete at the point of attack, keeps his legs firing and has strong hands. Lined up mostly in-line (55% of his snaps the past two seasons) and was deployed as a lead blocker on inside zones. Limited pass-block opportunities but didn’t embarrass himself.

Won’t turn 21 years old until October — still growing as a player. Showed some real grit coming back from facial injury and improving his production down the stretch. Rallied Gators with a gutsy effort in the SEC title game vs. Bama, willing his team back into the game after being down 20. Considered hard-working, committed and football-savvy with a passion for the game and strong character.

Downside: Sort of a basketball body that could use a little more bulk and body armor. Has resisted trying to push closer to the 260-pound range in the past. Lower-body and core strength could use some development. Average arm length (33 1/2 inches).

Change-of-direction skills merely so-so — turned in a 4.35-second short shuttle and a 7.12-second 3-cone drill. More of a linear mover with less quick twitch. Vertical jump was merely average.

Room for route-running improvement — can work out of his breaks a little cleaner. Not much deception to his game and will need to learn the tricks of the trade to free himself vs. crafty defenders.

Never going to be Rob Gronkowski as an in-line blocker. Still struggles to sustain and finish blocks. Will lose leverage because of his height and hand positioning. Not yet strong enough to pile drive people at the point of attack.

Still young and in need of overall refinement. Might not be ready to be a focal point early. Concussion must be fully vetted.

Best-suited destination: There isn’t an offense in the NFL that couldn’t use a multi-tool threat such as Pitts. He can make a below-average offense good and a good unit exceptional. With the right development, he has All-Pro potential. Put him in-line, in the slot or split wide — Pitts can torch defenses at all three spots.

Did you know: Pitts also played defensive end in high school, and his team clashed with Micah Parsons’ team a few times. We asked Pitts about tackling Parsons (when he played running back) and he had a funny response — check the video at the top of this story to hear what he had to say.

Player comp: The closest comp is the Raiders’ Darren Waller, a former wide receiver. But Pitts appears even faster and more explosive.

Expected draft range: Top-5 pick