Flyover Breakdowns: Can Kyle Pitts play wide receiver?
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts might be the biggest benefactor of the NFL Draft hype machine this year, and for a good reason. He is genuinely a fantastic player and worth a projected top 10 pick. With that hype machine, though, a player’s truths are often stretched, and traits become falsified. Although the Eagles moved from 6 to 12 in the 2021 draft, Kyle Pitts could fall depending on how the board goes. The top four picks are likely quarterbacks, and the teams following could pass for other wideouts or defensive players.
From a talent standpoint, the biggest takeaway for Kyle Pitts is his ridiculous athleticism. He stands at 6’6 and weighs 240 pounds, and is one of the most significant genetic freaks in the NFL in recent memory. A few days ago, Pitts ran a 4.46 40-yard-dash but, it was not officially timed like at the combine. These hand-timed 40s typically run a tenth of a second quicker, so Pitts is likely around a 4.56 40.
The main question with Kyle Pitts is, can play out wide? Typically tight ends stay close to the line of scrimmage, but Pitts played almost like a wide receiver in some sets for Florida in 2020. Nearly 17% of Pitts’ snaps at Florida were at X. The hype he has gotten has grown to astronomical levels, some calling him Darren Waller, Calvin Johnson, and Rob Gronkowski all rolled into one. While he is going to be an elite TE, these traits are not realistic. Many fans and analysts have claimed Pitts to be a game-breaking TE who can play out wide for more than half of his snaps or flat out change his position to wide receiver. That prediction is just not realistic.
For comparison, we will be looking at the current Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Rob Gronkowski. During his prime, Rob Gronkowski was used out wide about 40% of his snaps, and New England often did this because they saw matchups they could capitalize upon. These formations also exposed the issues of playing someone like Gronk at X would do, and it took the Patriots away from what worked best.
An example of this is occasionally the Patriots would send Gronk deep lined up near the sideline in a one-on-one with the cornerback. This seems perfect in theory, but the safety would always scream over and break up that coverage before Gronk could get possession of the football. Sometimes the safety would hesitate for a second allowing Gronk to get that one-on-one but this isn’t a reliable source on offense. The video above shows the different ways the Patriots tried to use Gronk out wide and what worked and what didn’t.
Kyle Pitts will likely suffer from these same issues if used out at X at a high rate. No matter who drafts him, you will very probably see Pitts outside next season, possibly more than he did at Florida, but not by much. Using Pitts exclusively out wide or a majority of the time will not work. It can work in small dosages or if there is a definite exploitable matchup, but it shouldn’t be relied upon. This is not taking away anything from Pitts as a player. Philadelphia would be extremely lucky to have him fall to 12, and he is worth a top-five pick. But it has gotten to the point where things are being discussed about his playstyle that just are not possibilities currently.
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