Now that Nick Sirianni is in the fold and his coaching staff is coming together, the Eagles' path to reinvent their offense is becoming more clear. Undeniably, the team is in need of pass catchers to help out Carson Wentz (or whoever is under center in 2021). While we debate DeVonta Smith or Ja’Marr Chase making the most sense, there is a third option that is becoming abundantly more possible: Kyle Pitts.
The idea of taking a tight end in the top ten makes people nervous and rightfully so. The recent history of first-round tight ends is spotty at best and the value of the player in an offense that already has established tight ends makes the pick unorthodox and a bit of gamble. With Pitts, though, you cannot value him like he is a normal tight end. Because he is not.
In 2019, Pitts was first-team All-SEC when he caught 54 passes for 649 yards and five scores. He breakout sophomore season earned him a lot of hype heading into the spring and the 2020 season. Hype he immediately justified with a four-touchdown game to kick off the season. Hype he surpassed when he averaged almost EIGHTEEN yards a catch (as a tight end!) over 43 catches while scoring on 12 of those receptions. Those are unfathomable numbers from the tight end position.
Pitts produced at a high level because Florida moved him all over the field to maximize his match up potential and consistently trusted him in 50/50 situations.
50/50 situations are truly 70/30 when Pitts is on the receiving end of these targets. At 6’6” and 245 pounds, he has size like small-forward and feet like a wide receiver. So when he is lined up inline in the “typical” tight end positioning, he is too fast for most linebackers to cover.
When he is lined up in the slot or on the outside, he is too big and physical.
Pitts is one on one with Jaycee Horn, a cornerback who will be hearing his name early in the draft this spring. Horn is able to stay in phase with Pitts, but Pitts’ physicality and late hands earn him the catch.
Here, Pitts is again winning a low-percentage target. Even though he fails to separate vertically, he adjusts to a throw low and to the outside only where he can get it. Pitts shows remarkable ball skills and athleticism to make this adjustment for a touchdown.
Winning contested situations is always impressive, but that should always be an ace in the sleeve instead of something a player relies on regularly. Realistically, it is not sustainable for players to consistently win in traffic.
That is why reps like this are so important. Pitts gets a clean release here with quick feet, secures a short pass, and then creates yards after the catch with his size and speed. If he wants to be a high-volume pass catcher, he needs to be able to separate.
Lining up with his hand in the ground, Pitts wins on this “in” against the safety. Despite a bad throw from the quarterback (which killed Pitts’ ability to get YAC), Pitts wins this rep with a nice route. His mid-route adjustment to catch an errant pass is all the more a testament to how reliable he is from anywhere in the formation.
Eighteen yards per catch doesn’t just miraculously happen. Especially for a tight end. Kyle Pitts’ dominant ability at the catch point and his long-striding speed made him one of the most dangerous big-play threats in the country.
Pitts blows by the defensive back here and, even after having to come back on an underthrown ball, scored on a 72 yard touchdown. While Pitts’ acceleration isn’t his strongest trait, his long strides make him pretty difficult to run with at full speed.
Of course, he is a tight end, so catching the ball isn’t the only thing he will be asked to do.
Blocking is important for tight ends, even dynamic pass-catching ones like Kyle Pitts. Why? Because the ability to block gives offensive play-callers flexibility with alignments and being a respectable blocker means keeping the defense honest. Pitts is tall and leaner for a tight end, which means he can get pushed around if he gets too high in his stance. Pitts does a good job with positioning and his athleticism makes him great as a pulling blocker. It is not his strongest suit, not even close, but he is effective enough to be valued with his hand in the ground.
Pitts’ impact on the Florida offense cannot be understated. Kyle Trask enjoyed a monster 2020 season because of what Pitts did for him specifically and for the rest of the Florida offense. Trask could lob prayers in his direction and get big plays and Kyle Pitts constantly threatening the big play meant that defenses had to key on him instead of Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes. Pitts’ dominance in 2020 elevated the players around him and it’s impossible to ignore that when evaluating him as an offensive weapon. Especially for an Eagles offense that desperately needs a true number one target.
For Philadelphia, a lot of things make sense when it comes to Kyle Pitts. Nick Sirianni featured multiple tight end sets while he was with the Colts and loved moving players around the formation to get favorable matchups. With the hiring of former Florida OC Brian Johnson as the Eagles Quarterback Coach, you now have someone in-house that is extremely well versed in what a difference-maker Kyle Pitts is for a passing game.
Of course, a big X-Factor is what happens with Zach Ertz this offseason. Signs are pointing to an end to his legendary career in Philadelphia, which opens the door for a new player to take over his targets. Dallas Goedert and Kyle Pitts would give the Eagles a deadly combo at the tight end position and Nick Sirianni would have all the flexibility in the world to exploit defenses. Imagine Goedert in line with Pitts in the slot or on the outside. Imagine the possibilities down in the red zone!
Kyle Pitts isn’t a typical tight end and the way he is valued as a draft prospect shouldn’t be typical. His dynamic in the Eagles offense would be as a dominant, above-the-rim playmaker that the Eagles haven’t had in a very long time. While it isn’t conventional, it is reasonable to expect Pitts being the player Philly needs to revamp their offense.