Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is listed as a tight end, but the best way to think of the projected top-10 pick in this year's NFL Draft is as an offensive weapon.
Pitts racked up 770 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games this past season, earning the highest grade (96.2) Pro Football Focus has ever given to a pass catcher. Pitts is built like a tight end (6-6, 245) but runs like a receiver. He has an amazing 83 3/8-inch wing span and ran the 40 in 4.44 seconds at Florida's pro day last week.
"I think he's an elite wide receiver and I think he's an elite tight end," Florida head coach Dan Mullen said of Pitts. "And when you're that, that's what causes the problem of what personnel grouping are you in, who you're going to match up against him?"
Lions head coach and former NFL tight end Dan Campbell has taken notice of Pitts' rare skill set.
"He's a different bird than what a traditional tight end has been, or certainly has been when I played," Campbell said of Pitts.
The Lions are evaluating all the prospects who might fit into the group of players worthy of a top 10 pick (Lions have the No. 7 pick), and Pitts seems to fit the bill. Of his 12 touchdowns last season, five came with him playing as an in-line tight end, three when played in the slot and four when he was lined up wide as a receiver.
He has tremendous position versatility, which is why Lions fans shouldn't think of him as just a tight end. The Lions have a Pro Bowl tight end in T.J. Hockenson, who they drafted No. 8 overall a couple years ago. Hockenson caught 67 balls for 723 yards and six touchdowns last year on the way to his first Pro Bowl selection.
If Pitts is still available at No. 7, and he's the best player on GM Brad Holmes' draft board, Detroit will be drafting an offensive weapon who might just be the best non-quarterback in this class.
Pitts has the potential to play out wide, in the slot and also line up opposite Hockenson in-line. New Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn would have a ton of options with a player like Pitts, and a ton of potential mismatches when Pitts and Hockenson are on the field together.
"I think it would cause a lot of problems," Pitts said of potentially playing with a veteran tight end like Hockenson. "Because you have two great tight ends who can run routes and block. That kind of makes it hard for the defense to scheme it up. Having those two tight ends that can do different things, line up in different areas, that's something that's kind of difficult for the defense to guard."