The Future: 2021 NFL Draft Prospects Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts, tight end for the Florida Gators, is the best tight end in the 2021 draft class. His only competition is Pat Friermuth out of Penn State. Pitts is a 6'6", 239lbs monster who is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He is too athletic to be covered by linebackers and too big to be covered by defensive backs. The best comparison for him in my opinion is a mix of Rob Gronkowski and Evan Engram. Some of the traits I will discuss below are his hands, separation quickness, zone/space blocking, pass protection, drive/power blocking, yards after catch (YAC), and his ability to find seams.
Hands- the ability to track and adjust to the ball. Pitts's hands are his best attribute. He has very strong hands where he catches the ball away from his body, away from defenders due to his insanely long wingspan. His ability to high point the ball over defenders and make contested catches is elite. Due to his size, length, and ability to track the ball, Pitts can consistently go up and over defenders and make catches, even when double and triple covered. He has a wow factor when it comes to bringing down jump balls, especially in the red zone, as seen by his 11 touchdowns in only 6 games played this year.
Separation Quickness- ability to create space at the top of the route. Pitts is a very good athlete who can create separation with his speed and agility against linebackers in man, but against faster corners and safeties he creates separation using his size and strength at the break point of the route as well as at the catch point. This is where he is similar to Gronkowski in the sense that he can use his size and strength to use subtle push-offs (legally without extending his arm) to create separation. He lines up all over the field, out wide, in the slot, with his hand in the ground next to a tackle so he can find openings all over the field. Against zone, he knows how to use his body and mind to find openings in the defense and become an even bigger target for his quarterback.
Zone/Space Blocking and Power/Drive Blocking- how well Pitts can block in both zone and power schemes. In zone and space blocking he mainly uses his size and length to get in the way, and when pulling to the backside he does a good job of holding his own against edge defenders. He has shown that he can be very good in double team blocks that lead to him having to get to a second-level defender. In power blocking, some of the same applies in regards to his ability to get to the second level, but he needs to do a better job of using his legs and lower body to drive defenders where he wants. In both areas more can be asked of his effort and technique, there have been times where it looks like he gives up as a blocker, especially when the ball is run away from him.
Pass Protection- this includes his timing/hand placement, his ability to set points and anchor, and his pad level. This is an area that Pitts isn't often a part of simply because he is the number 1 receiving option in this offense so he isn't asked to pass protect much.
YAC- Pitts's ability to make a play with the ball in his hands. Pitts is very athletic, but he isn't going to make many defenders miss in the open field due to his agility. He will be able to break tackles and make defenders miss because of his size and strength. Defensive backs in the open field are more likely to dive at his legs to try to tackle him due to his size, resulting in broken tackles. He does have the speed and acceleration to get upfield quickly and run away from defenders but the biggest YAC potential from Pitts is simply the fact that he is really hard to bring down.
Find Seam- This is Pitts awareness to finds voids in zones and settle. I touched on this above a little in separation quickness, but this is a more tight end specific trait. When lined up in line, next to the offensive tackle, the seam route is a very important aspect of some offensive, especially in play action. The Patriots are a team that use this scheme a lot and you can look back to when they had Gronkowski and how often he would run a seam route. Pitts is perfect for this route. Between his athletic ability, size, and awareness of the defense he is very good at finding the seam to get open against zone. At the next level, he will be an elite passing option, especially coming off of play-action.