Photo by Alexis Greaves/UAA Communications
Kyle Pitts has seen varying valuations over the last couple of months. Some fantasy analysts call him the best tight end prospect of all-time, while some point to guys like Evan Engram and Eric Ebron as reasons to doubt him. Draft analysts are as enamored with him as fantasy analysts; his college dominance was on full display at times throughout the 2020 season, but his traits are generational. I’ve put it on record that I’d take Kyle Pitts immediately after Justin Fields (the 1.01) and Trevor Lawrence. Here’s why.
Kyle Pitts does things on tape that your typical 6'6, 240-pound man does not.
This is his first in-line snap in the Alabama game. His ability to use his physicality and quickness to create separation is unmatched in this (and probably any) tight end class.
If that isn't enough, check out his route running technique in this one. He sets up the NFL-caliber corner with a quick jab to the outside. The reason this technique is so effective here is because he had run a go-route from the before. Corner jumps, Pitts breaks in. This is wide receiver-level route running technique and short-area burst from a 6'6, 240-pound tight end. Add in the incredible catch radius and what you have is a tight end that can function as an X-, Y-, or Z- receiver at the next level because of the multitude of ways he wins.
He uses the same technique here, though he doesn't get the ball. He's located at the bottom of your screen, and man, does he embarrass this corner.
Pointing out flaws in Kyle Pitts' game is next to impossible; he doesn't drop the football, he wins from anywhere on the field, and he has burst and explosion once he catches the football. Where you can and will find flaws: his blocking technique.
But I'm not playing in a points per block league, and you aren't either. As an all-around tight end prospect, he may not be the best ever. As a receiving tight end prospect, we've never seen one like him.
The Positional Advantage
"Christian, that's all fine and dandy, but drafting rookie tight ends highly is a method that has been proven to fail." I hear what you're saying, and I understand your concern, but I'm here to tell you that Kyle Pitts will return more value at 1.03 than any running back or wide receiver in 2021.
If we think that Kyle Pitts truly is the best receiving tight end prospect of all-time (I do), then that means he should make an immediate impact in the receiving game. The best rookie tight end we've seen in the last five years is Evan Engram, who finished TE4 in FPTS/G in 2017. He received 115 targets and caught just 55% of them. It was something we could have seen coming; Engram had 6 drops his final year in college and registered a drop rate of 8.5%.
Kyle Pitts registered 0 drops on 43 targets in 2020. He caught all 43 of the balls thrown his way. 100% catch rate. Say we have a worst-case scenario and Kyle Pitts struggles to continue his 100% catch rate in the NFL and catches about 70% of his targets, and gets 70% of the work that Evan Engram got as a rookie (I'm using Engram as the bar because of his early success). But say he keeps his YPC up around 15 (his line this year was 17.9). The line would be:
81 targets, 56 catches, 840 yards.
140 FPTS before accounting for touchdowns. That'd be good for TE16. Assuming that with such a high volume added to Kyle Pitts' size advantage, he would find the end zone at least 5 times, that's 170 FPTS, which would be good for the TE6. While that doesn't scream "positional advantage," the value of having a wide receiver with tight end eligibility that at worst is putting up RB2 numbers is greater than taking an RB putting up RB2 numbers. Choosing to let his value drop after his rookie year is also a massive mistake; if you don't draft him, you will have to sell the farm for him at this time next year.
Again, this is a worst-case scenario. A team taking him with high draft capital is going to immediately feature him in the offense. His immediate ceiling is the TE3. His immediate FPTS/G ceiling is somewhere in the Darren Waller range (17 FPTS/G). Rostering Darren Waller was the equivalent of rostering DK Metcalf, Nick Chubb, and Jonathan Taylor; except the discrepancy between having a guy like Josh Jacobs instead of Nick Chubb is significantly smaller than the difference between Darren Waller and Robert Tonyan (by about 4.5 FPTS/G). Teams rode Travis Kelce and Darren Waller all the way to the championship because they were that much better than their replacement (for fantasy purposes).
Rostering Kyle Pitts is giving you that positional advantage, except he is 20 years old and you get to have that positional advantage for the next 10+ years. And that brings me to my next point.
Metrics That Matter
I cited Breakout Age (BOA) as a reason to believe in Kyle Pitts on Twitter last week. The response was: I've never heard that as an argument for a tight end. The main problem that fantasy analysts will have in valuing Kyle Pitts is treating him like a tight end. Considering BOA is considering the fact that Kyle Pitts is a wide receiver, and a damn good one. He comes in at my WR3 if I plug him into my wide receiver database; meaning that I consider BOA as important in understanding how good Kyle Pitts really is.
His true BOA (>20% dominator) came at the age of 20. He had a 22% dominator in a year he missed 4 games due to injury. His adjusted dominator would sit in the mid-30% range, putting him with the likes of Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and Jordan Reed.
Pitts is projected to run in the 4.4s by some if he runs at the modified NFL Combine or his Pro Day. We discussed his dominator above. His Speed Score should check out in the 99th-percentile or so based on the fact that he's a 6'6 monster of a man running 4.46 or so. That leaves his college yards per catch. He posted a number of YPC value of 17.9 in 2020.
That's the highest mark of any tight end with 40 or more catches since 2010 when Ladarius Green did it for Louisiana-Lafayette.
Kyle Pitts will have Travis Kelce-level impact in fantasy football within the next two years. Reaching for him at 1.03 isn't reaching at all; the positional advantage you gain by having a top-tier tight end is drastic enough to justify the decision. Do I think Kyle Pitts will ever be selected at 1.03? No, not unless I have the 1.03. I also suggest you trade back from the 1.03 and pick up an additional asset; as long as you can guarantee you'll get Pitts with the pick you get back. Kyle Pitts is a generational talent in every sense of the word. The difference between him and Pat Freiermuth or Brevin Jordan is drastic, and while those two may be serviceable fantasy tight ends, Kyle Pitts is other-worldly.
Draft him wherever you can. Thank me after you win multiple championships.
Until next time!