2021 NFL draft: With his rare gifts, Florida TE Kyle Pitts is truly a unicorn

Eric Edholm
·7-min read

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker | 12. WR DeVonta Smith | 11. EDGE Azeez Ojulari | 10. CB Patrick Surtain II | 9. OT Penei Sewell | 8. QB Zach Wilson | 7. LB Micah Parsons | 6. QB Trey Lance | 5. WR Jaylen Waddle | 4. QB Justin Fields | 3. WR Ja'Marr Chase | 2. TE Kyle Pitts | 1. QB Trevor Lawrence

Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

2. Florida TE Kyle Pitts

6-foot-6, 245 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 7.05 — immediate-impact prospect

TL;DR scouting report: Rare mismatch TE with elite athletic traits who essentially acts as a king-sized receiver

Games watched: Georgia (2020), Kentucky (2020), Texas A&M (2020), Alabama (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit, Pitts chose the Gators over Virginia Tech. He saw action in 11 games, mostly on special teams, as a true freshman in 2018, catching three passes for 73 yards, including a 52-yard TD vs. Idaho. In 2019, Pitts earned a starting role after a coaching change and caught 54 passes for 649 yards and five TDs in 13 games (12 starts), earning first-team All-SEC honors. 

In 2020, he caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 TDs in eight starts, missing three games because of a dirty hit he took against Georgia. He needed surgery on his nose and suffered a concussion. Pitts, who won the John Mackey Award (given to the nation’s top tight end) and earned AP first-team All-America honors, skipped Florida’s bowl game and declared early for the 2021 draft.

Upside: Truly rare physical athlete. Unusual dimensions along with an elite athletic profile for a player this size. Turned in pro day testing numbers that many smaller wide receivers would pine for — a 4.40-second 40-yard dash (with a 1.55-second 10-yard split), a 33 1/2-inch vertical jump, a 129-inch broad jump and 22 reps on the bench press. Will enter the NFL as one of the most athletically blessed tight ends around.

Tremendous length — a shade under 6-foot-6 with 83 3/8-inch wingspan, which is longer than nearly every offensive tackle in the entire 2021 draft class. Enormous hands (10 5/8 inches) to snag passes and latch on as a blocker.

Incredibly smooth mover — looks and runs like a jumbo wideout. Long strider with excellent build-up speed to attack the seam and attack defenses on the outside. Outstanding, natural separation ability — can run away from linebackers and safeties in man coverage. Sharp cuts at the top of his routes. Great burst after the catch — 36% of his yards were on YAC.

Faced all kinds of coverages — corners in press with safety help, brackets, linebackers chucking him at the line with zone behind it, you name it, he saw it. Beat Georgia CB Tyson Campbell for a touchdown from press coverage on a sail route. Had some great reps vs. Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II.

Florida TE Kyle Pitts has All-Pro potential. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
Florida TE Kyle Pitts has All-Pro potential. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Contortionist — absurd body control for a man his size, able to twist around to adjust to off-target throws. Leaps over defenders (often without making illegal contact) to haul in jump balls. Uses his body and length to shield DBs and win at the catch point consistently, even vs. double coverage. Excels at contested catches. Improved his hands noticeably — from four drops (on 80 targets) in 2019 to zero (on 65 targets) in 2020.

Attacks all three levels of the defense — lethal on slants and fades, which makes him a red-zone nightmare. Effective on back-shoulder balls. Targeted 17 times in 2020 on passes traveling 20-plus yards — racked up 10 catches for 331 yards and five scores. Lined up all over the field. A true mismatch piece not every NFL team will be able to harness in coverage.

Competes as a blocker. Was poor in that department in 2019 before making noticeable strides. Uses his length and base strength to compete at the point of attack, keeps his legs firing and has strong hands. Lined up mostly in-line (55% of his snaps the past two seasons) and was deployed as a lead blocker on inside zones. Limited pass-block opportunities but didn’t embarrass himself.

Won’t turn 21 until October — still growing as a player. Showed some real grit coming back from facial injury and improving his production down the stretch. Rallied Gators with a gutsy effort in the SEC title game vs. Bama, willing his team back into the game after being down 20. Considered hard-working, committed and football-savvy with a passion for football and strong character.

Downside: Sort of a basketball body that could use more bulk. Has resisted trying to push closer to the 260-pound range. Lower-body and core strength could use development. Average arm length (33 1/2 inches).

Change-of-direction skills is so-so — turned in a 4.35-second short shuttle and a 7.12-second 3-cone drill. More of a linear mover with less quick twitch. Vertical jump was merely average.

Room for route-running improvement — can work out of his breaks cleaner. Not much deception to his game and will need to learn the tricks of the trade to free himself vs. crafty defenders.

Never going to be Rob Gronkowski as an in-line blocker. Still struggles to sustain and finish blocks. Will lose leverage because of his height and hand positioning. Not yet strong enough to pile drive people at the point of attack.

Still young and in need of overall refinement. Might not be ready to be a focal point early. Concussion must be fully vetted.

Best-suited destination: There isn’t an offense in the NFL that couldn’t use a multi-tool threat such as Pitts. He can make a below-average offense good and a good unit exceptional. With the right development, he has All-Pro potential. Put him in-line, in the slot or split wide — Pitts can torch defenses at all three spots.

Did you know: Pitts also played defensive end in high school, and his team clashed with Micah Parsons’ team a few times. We asked Pitts about tackling Parsons (when he played running back) and he had a funny response — check the video atop this story to hear what he had to say.

Player comp: The closest comp is the Raiders’ Darren Waller, a former wide receiver. But Pitts appears even faster and more explosive.

Expected draft range: Top-5 pick

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