ALLEN PARK – The big tight ends debate is already raging in Detroit, where the Lions have already passed two top-10 picks on tight ends since 2014 and three first-round picks on tight ends since 2009. No other team of the league did. comes close to making that kind of investment in the tight end position. In fact, no one else has spent a top pick for this position since 2006.
But now Kyle Pitts of Florida has solidified his place among the Top 10 prospects in this year’s draft, and his pro day could propel him into the top five. Which begs the question: Could the Lions – sitting in seventh overall pick – really use another high draft pick at position?
The catch, of course, is that Pitts isn’t a traditional tight end. And his pro day proved it, when he ran an absurdly 4.44 second scorecard over 40 yards.
“I think he’s an elite receiver and I think he’s an elite tight end,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said after the Gators pro game Wednesday. “When you’re like that, that’s what causes problems – what groups of staff are you on and who are you going to be up against him?”
“I was in a meeting the other day and a guy came over and said, ‘He’s kind of like a unicorn.’ And the only way to defend a unicorn is with another unicorn. So if you don’t have a unicorn defending you have a problem.
There aren’t many unicorns roaming college stadiums, even the SEC, and Pitts proved Mullen’s point during an All-American career at Gainesville. He racked up 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games last year, and finished as the No. 1 receiver in the country according to advanced analysis from ProFootballFocus. Yes, receiver.
There are tight ends that can catch, and then there’s Kyle Pitts, who literally lined up at receiver on 36% of his offensive shots last season. On his professional day, he showed why by getting the 40 in 4.44 seconds.
It would have been the ninth fastest time among all combine receivers last year. By comparison, Justin Jefferson, the league’s top rookie receiver last year, ran the 40 in 4.43 seconds. Pitts nearly matched him, and did so at almost 6ft 6in and 245 pounds, with 33.5in arms and 83-3 / 8in wingspan.
It’s built like a tight end, but works like a catcher. Simply put, it breaks the mold. That’s why he’s in the running to be the roster’s first non-quarterback, and it’s also why the Lions – who need catchers after losing Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Mo Sanu. and Jamal Agnew – might consider himself if they just spent all of those picks on Eric Ebron, TJ Hockenson and Brandon Pettigrew.
“It’s a different bird than what, you know, a traditional tight end was or certainly has been when I played,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said this week.
The Lions have so many other needs that they might factor in with the pick – that will happen when you finish last three consecutive seasons and clean a house on both sides of the ball – but Pitts would also be a fit. intriguing. Hockenson just finished a second season that saw him lead the NFC tight ends receiving yards and making the Pro Bowl. Throw another tight pass-catching end into the mix, and Detroit would have the size and the pass-catching ability to cause serious defenses just like New England did with guys like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez during the day.
“I think it would cause a lot of problems,” Pitts said when asked how he would fit in in Detroit. “Because you have two good, tight ends that can run roads and block, so it makes it hard for a defense to plan. Like I said, having two tight ends that can do different things in different areas is hard for a defense to keep.
Of course, there are other options for the seventh overall pick as well. Pass catchers are a trendy option for the Lions these days, where they’ve lost everyone noticeable and currently lack long-term stability. Quintez Cephus is the only wide locked up beyond 2021, after free agents like Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, Damion Ratley and Kalif Raymond all signed one-year contracts.
There should be some good ones available too, with Ja’Marr Chase of LSU and Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith of Alabama all candidates for the top 10. Chase also confirmed his resume on Wednesday when he ran the 40 in 4.38 seconds, a great time for an accomplished receiver who was never expected to perform so well. He also traveled 41 inches in the vertical jump and 11 feet in the width jump, making him one of the most explosive players of the year.