*Our TE grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.

**Our TE formulas had some slight changes in the offseason—an adjustment to better identify and value TE prospects that are smaller physically and are primed for the era ahead...the era of Jordan Reed and Delanie Walker-type TEs. Our historical grades will have changed some on various prospects as well, to show their grades by comparison. 


How’s this for an opening statement: Kyle Pitts is the most dangerous receiving tight end I’ve ever laid eyes on. Arguably the best TE prospect I’ve ever seen (in my 10+ years). I won’t be alone in that assessment. You can always find people on the opposite of any argument, football or otherwise…but on this, on Kyle Pitts being a great/elite, nearly without flaw TE prospect for the NFL Draft – we find something everyone can agree upon.

Nearly without flaw. What flaw then? About the only thing you can say is – he’s not fully a traditional tight end that is going to be some heavyweight, ace blocker in the run game. However, he’s not a liability as a blocker…and if he’s in blocking a lot, you’re using him wrong anyway. You don’t draft Joe Burrow to run the wishbone…and you don’t draft Kyle Pitts to not run routes and block every down. 

Pitts has long arms to extend a barrier to push, block pass rushers away. He’s strong enough to hold his own as a blocker. His feet are quicker than the defenders, so he can dance with them or slide to them with ease. He’s fine as blocker, and anyone who is worried about his blocking (and not focused on his real gift/superhero-like abilities) is insane anyway.

Where Pitts is off the charts is – he’s the most fluid, natural receiver talent I’ve ever seen at the tight end position. He’s literally like watching Calvin Johnson play tight end. You like Darren Waller…the highly athletic WR turned elite tight end? Pitts is better than Waller.

Pitts has foot movement like a Diontae Johnson or Davante Adams off the snap…so fast, he can’t be covered/he gets open at will. I’ve never seen a tight end with such feet in my life. It’s like watching a great, modern day wide receiver at work…only Pitts is 6’5”+ and 240+ pounds doing it, which almost defies the laws of nature. 35-40+ pounds bigger than a Diontae or Davante type WR…with the same quick feet.

When you think of the (current) great athletes at tight end – Waller, Evan Engram, Noah Fant…Pitts has them all beat.

Pitts is more a combination of Waller and Fant. Engram is the fastest of the group in a sprint, but he has suspect/OK/unreliable hands.

Waller and Fant are both incredible athletes, but Pitts may be/is even better. Waller has the best hands of the current NFL TE comparison group – Pitts has better hands today/right away.

If I ranked the Pitts-Waller-Engram-Fant in key areas, it would go as follows:

HandsPitts, Waller, Fant, Engram

And Pitts with distance here. He’s already an ace in athleticism/movement skills, but also blessed with great/elite/special hands. No drops recorded for him last year. He catches about everything thrown near him – in traffic or otherwise.

Agility/Routes/Get openPitts-Waller-Fant-Engram

Pitts is the quickest TE off the snap I can recall ever seeing/scouting, period. A+ hands with A+ feet at 6’5”/245+ is insane.

Straight speed: Engram-Waller-Pitts-Fant

Engram and Waller have lows 4.4s sprinter type speed…my guess is Pitts is more low 4.5s. You’d rather have Pitts’ quickness off the snap to get open and make the catch and live with a 4.5s runner after…than a 4.4s runner who has a tough time operating short/medium plays.

If Pitts registers in the 4.4s for a 40-time, then we’ll take his grading even higher. 

You have to design plays for Engram to utilize his superpower (and keep him away from his kryptonite)…get him the ball with a head of steam or throw to him deep (where he’s an iffy catcher). He needs to be going full speed to make a difference. Pitts you treat like a #1 WR…he’ll get open on anyone, safety, linebacker, or when top corners try to come in and man up to him. I watched Pitts routinely work Alabama’s highly touted CB Patrick Surtain in their 2020 game. If a DB covers Pitts, he’s too big for them short or deep. If a linebacker goes to cover him…Pitts is way too fast for them.

End zone threatPitts-Waller-Fant-Engram

Pitts just gets open too quick/easy, cuts away from defenders with ease…you don’t have to use him as a bully or high point option only – though he can go high point with the best of them. He can spread out and jab step and cut immediately off the snap for a two-yard quick toss and easy TD like no one else among our TE comparison group can.

Blocking: Engram-Fant-Waller-Pitts

That’s today…the pro guys have developed their blocking skills and gotten thicker in the pros. I suspect Pitts will be right there with them in short order. The one thing you can teach/fix/coach a talent on.

 

Pitts has been relatively injury free and is a soft spoken, well-liked, and a good character background check prospect combined with elite on-field skills. I can find no real flaws. The only debate point is – what is an elite of the elite TE worth in the NFL Draft?  

Before we answer that, this year of Kyle Pitts makes me wonder…for the tight end position – are we about to enter a golden age of Kyle Pitts-like, ultra-athletic TE prospects? Have we been building in this direction for years (with better and better athletes rising up through the system)…or this is a blip? I am thinking this because I feel like I’ve been claiming a TE prospect is or might be ‘the best I’ve ever seen’ for several years in a row now. So, I want to explore this.

In 2017, we got O.J. Howard and Evan Engram…and I wondered, at the time, if that was the greatest 1-2 punch of TE prospects to hit the NFL – and if this was the beginning of a run of freak TE prospects streaming into college/the pros. Howard was very athletic for his size and Engram ran 40-times off-the-charts and was expected to change the game. In hindsight, they really didn’t change the game that much.

In 2018, we got Dallas Goedert who I graded/scouted on an elite level…a better all-around TE than OJH or Engram. An athletic Gronk-like creature. He’s been buried in Philly to this day.

In 2019, I thought Noah Fant was like an amalgamation of the best of Howard and Engram…size with freakish speed/quickness and a good-to-great receiver (for a TE). I wondered if Fant might be one of the best TE prospects I’ve ever scouted. He’s had two boring years in Denver, though still filled with promise.

From 2017 to 2018 to 2019, there was at least one TE prospect that made me wonder if they were ‘the best I’d seen in my scouting history’ in some way.

In 2020, another big label group but in a different way -- it was the worst class of TE prospects I’d seen since the year Maxx Williams was the supposed top TE among scouts (not me). I thought Albert Okwuegbunam was interesting in 2020, but the NFL preferred Cole Kmet and Devin Asiasi. Yikes. Maybe 2017-18-19 was not a growing trend after seeing the 2020 group? Or was 2020 just a pause year?

And now we have 2021’s Kyle Pitts…who might be the best TE prospect I’ve ever seen. Our computer models are near-broken on the possibility – our computer models have not ever seen anything like Pitts. Our computer models respected Engram-Howard-Fant-Goedert, very much so…but Pitts quasi-broke the system like Joe Burrow did among QB grades last year. I’d never seen anything like Burrow at QB in college, his great tape and stunning output against strong opponents…ditto Pitts.

That’s the good news, for Pitts.

The bad news is – what has it mattered in NFL translation for tight ends? Howard has fallen off. Engram got stuck with terrible offenses/terrible teams and has flashed something special but not consistently. Dallas Goedert is terrific…but has been buried as a backup/co-starter with Zach ErtzNoah Fant got stuck with Drew Lock and Vic Fangio. Am I just wrong about high end tight end scouting or do the ones we prefer just keep landing horribly in the NFL?

The only real eye-catching, difference making TEs in the NFL are who – Kelce-Waller-Kittle?

Kelce a lot because of Mahomes. Waller wasn’t even a TE coming into the league. Kittle a little used pass game tight end out of Iowa, tested terrific at the NFL Combine, and then exploded in the NFL.

If I were an NFL GM, and you magically let me have any one tight end existing in the current NFL for my NFL team/franchise…my choice of any of the 100+ of them on current NFL rosters – who would I take? My short list (in order) would probably be…Kittle-Waller-Goedert-Fant-Engram. Notice Kelce is not on there. Age and how much of his success is due to Mahomes are sticking points. Engram gets the nod over him to be on the top five options because he is much younger and if used right could be a special/unique weapon unlike anything the NFL has seen from a TE. I could argue for any of those five guys – just depends upon what I wanted from my tight end.

OK, you see my top five…now, same question only Kyle Pitts (as of what we know at this writing) is an option. Where would I place him? Either #1 or #2…a lean towards #1.

Kittle is a better blocker and is an established great athlete/physical receiver…but Goedert and Fant may wind up to be better than Kittle’s peak. Kittle has been featured by his offense, Goedert and Fant are still a bit of a mystery because of their NFL journey so far as secondary weapons (we haven’t seen them unleashed in the NFL to know for absolute sure). However, I’m into special ‘weapon’ TEs…and the reason I’d probably go Pitts (today) over all of them is because I’ve not seen a weapon like Pitts before at TE…the all-around weapon – hands, agility, speed, vertical.

Jimmy Graham at his peak comes to mind when I think of Pitts…but I think Pitts is faster/quicker than Graham. Jimmy would overpower you, and that’s a gift too, but Pitts is big and moves and works like a #1 WR. Graham, Gronk, and Antonio Gates were great athletes with their lead punch of ‘physically overpowering’. Pitts is a great athlete with a lead of punch of playing like Julio Jones in a tight end’s body.

What is that worth to the NFL?

An NFL team is about to get something special – but recent history says his new team might not know what to do with it. NFL head coaches and O-Cs came up through the ranks with big, stiff TEs to maneuver in their offense…they have neither the experience nor the instinct to fully utilize a special weapon tight end freak. These long-time coaches never designed plays or dreamed of having something like Kyle Pitts. If Pitts winds up with the Giants or the Bears (two examples) – he’s in some major trouble of being underutilized/ignored/always blocking too much. If he winds up with the Chargers or Bengals…he might become the most dangerous TE in the game instantly and a likely Hall of Famer.

We’ll see what way it goes in a few months… 



Kyle Pitts, Through the Lens of Our TE Scouting Algorithm:


96.3 yards and 1.5 TDs per game for Pitts in 2020 season is simply stunning from a tight end at the college ranks.

14 TDs in his last 14 games…plus by 2020 everyone knew to cover him near the red zone, doubling him a lot – and it didn’t matter.

Four 100+ yard games in his last 15 games.

Facing Alabama in the SEC title game in 2020, with ‘Bama throwing corners (NFL draft pick level CBs) at him some of the time to slow him down/stop him – 7 catches for 129 yards and 1 TD.

 

2021 Pro Day Measurable Projections:

6’5”/246, 10”+ hands

4.5+ 40-time, sub-7.00 three-cone, 37”+ vertical

If Pitts’s Pro Day numbers disappoint, then his grade could drop 10-20%+…like if he runs in the 4.6s, then it’s a hit to his draft grade/legend. But If he runs in the 4.4s, then his draft stock is going to fly even higher.




The Historical TE Prospects to Whom Kyle Pitts Most Compares Within Our System:


A more wiry, springy, quick version of Noah Fant…and a better receiver right out of the box. Fant and Kittle were underutilized TEs in college. Gates-Gonzalez-Graham were basketball players who learned how to play at the NFL level. Pitts was a dominant college receiver…and he walks right into the NFL with elite receiving skills, ability, instincts. 

Pitts is a bigger, quicker Fant.

Pitts is a smaller, quicker Graham. 

Pitts has room to potentially add 5+ pounds of muscle and play over 250 pounds with elite movement skills. 

Pitts achieved the highest TE-grade we’ve ever issued (and keep in mind this is pre-real measurables). Vernon Davis the 2nd-highest now – and he’s not a great Pitts comp because he was 6’3”, and a differently styled TE (but another one who was mostly misused/underutilized in his long career, wound up blocking way too much). 


TE Grade

TE-Reed

Last

First

Yr

College

H

H

W

Spd-Agil Metric

Strgth Blxing Metric

Hands Metric

12.146

14.34

Pitts

Kyle

2021

Florida

6

5.0

246

13.04

6.15

10.94

10.245

8.82

Fant

Noah

2019

Iowa

6

4.1

249

12.89

8.83

9.34

10.006

8.39

Gonzalez

Tony

1997

California

6

5.0

243

10.95

5.48

8.77

10.665

7.91

Gates

Antonio

2003

Kent State

6

4.0

258

11.07

8.29

9.10

9.725

3.80

Graham

Jimmy

2010

Miami, Fla

6

6.2

260

10.78

8.18

8.23

8.666

7.31

Housler

Rob 

2011

Fla Atlantic

6

5.3

248

13.37

6.74

8.10


*A score of 7.0+ is where we start to take a TE prospect more seriously. A score of 8.50+ is where we see a stronger correlation of TEs going on to become NFL good/great/elite. A score of 10.00+ is more rarefied air in our system and indicates a greater probability of becoming an elite NFL TE.

All of the TE ratings are based on a 0–10 scale, but a player can score negative, or above a 10.0 in certain instances.

**The ‘TE-Reed’ score is in honor of Jordan Reed’s 2015 season…looking at TEs in a different manner—the smaller, speedy receiving threats.

“Speed-Agility Metric” = A combination of unique metrics surrounding speed, agility, physical size, mixed with some on-field performance metrics. High scorers here project to have a better YAC and show characteristics to be used as deep threats/create separation.

“Power-Strength Metric” = A combination of unique metrics surrounding physical size profiling, bench press strength, etc.  High scorers here project to be more physical, better blockers, and less injury prone.

“Hands Metric” = A combination of unique metrics surrounding on-field performance in college, considering the strength of opponents played. Furthermore, this data considers some physical profiling for hand size, etc. High scorers here have a better track record of college statistical performance and project the combination of data for receiving success at the next level.

2021 NFL Draft Outlook:

Pitts is ranked as a top 10 overall prospect for most draft websites, and he’s usually taken in the top 10 of mock drafts produced so far in 2021. I wouldn’t be so sure/cavalier that Pitts will be a top 10 pick. He’s not a tight end style that the old guard NFL head coaches like or want. Most NFL head coaches prefer 255+ pound blocker, grinder, good hands TEs…they don’t know what to do with flashy weaponry TEs. Every man, woman, and child will praise Pitts as ‘amazing’, so will NFL head coaches…as they then take a QB, O-Linemen, or pass rusher or big DT instead of Pitts. I could see Pitts falling because current playbooks/plans of old head coaches aren’t built for Pitts. A visionary coach will have to swoop in and take him…I hope for his sake. More likely a smitten GM takes him to the mild agitation of the head coach.

#13 to the Chargers would be awesome. 

#12 to the 49ers (splitting TE time like Goedert), #15 to the Pats would be a disaster. 

I think the majority (maybe 60/40) of NFL head coaches will prefer the stylings of Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth than they do Pitts. 

If I were an NFL GM, I’d agree – this is a tough call to make in the top 10. He might be a top 10 talent and trailblazer tight end…but how important is a TE in the grand scheme of things. I mean, if you’re staring at a great O-Lineman or shutdown corner or elite pass rusher or, obviously, a quarterback needed – do you blow past all that to grab a slick TE? Any team that takes a WR over Pitts is insane. If I thought Pitts was a game changer, and I do…I think he’d have to be a special case to be in my top 5-10 overall for sure. I’d rather have Pitts than a ‘B’ grade O-Lineman or ‘good’ pass rusher. BUT I’ll likely take the ‘A’ O-Lineman or elite pass rusher over Pitts, but we’ll see what this draft has to offer in the more key positions as we go. 

Pitts is an elite prospect at a less important position – it just depends on how many elite other players we grade out ahead of him. Could 2-3-4…could be 10+? Too early to tell just yet. 




NFL Outlook:   

As I previously stated… Great TE prospects have been landing in the worst places. Odds are, that will happen to Pitts too…but I pray it doesn’t.

If Pitts lands with a stoic, old school coach in a Midwest/northern geography/climate – Pitts will be a nice but wasted weapon as a high draft pick. 

If Pitts lands with a savvy young coach in a dome/southern/L.A. team with a slick offense…he could be Rookie of the Year and causing all kinds of lamenting why didn’t ___ team draft him articles. 







2/9/2021