2021 NFL Draft: Kyle Pitts makes history as highest-drafted tight end after standout Florida career

By Adam Silverstein
April 29, 2021
2021 NFL Draft: Kyle Pitts makes history as highest-drafted tight end after standout Florida career
Football

Image Credit: @GatorsFB / Twitter

One of the most explosive and athletic playmakers in the history of Florida Gators football, tight end Kyle Pitts on Thursday saw his professional dreams come true when he was selected with the No. 4 pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Not only did that selection solidify Pitts as a future star in the making, it made significant history as well.

Pitts at No. 4 overall is now the highest-drafted tight end in the history of the NFL Draft. Prior to his selection, no tight end had been chosen higher than No. 5 overall, which happened twice to Mike Ditka in 1961 (prior to the start of the common draft era) and Riley Odoms in 1972.

He is the 15th tight end selected among the top 10 picks in the common draft era and the first Florida tight end drafted since Washington selected Jordan Reed in 2013. Pitts is also the Gators’ highest-drafted tight end in history, surpassing Ben Troupe (Round 2, No. 40 overall) in 2004. He is just the seventh top-five pick out of Florida all-time and the fifth in the common draft era. As an offensive playmaker, his draft slot is only exceeded by wide receiver Wes Chandler (No. 3 overall, 1978).

“I’ve been waiting for that call my whole life. When i saw that phone ring, my heart dropped,” Pitts said after his selection. “… I can’t wait to get to Atlanta and start my journey.”

Pitts hauled in 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in an injury-shortened season for the Gators last year, and he’s drawn comparisons in the pre-draft process not to other stellar tight ends like Darren Waller but rather one of the greatest wideouts in NFL history, Calvin Johnson, due to his exceptionally large frame, incredible speed and top-tier athleticism. Pitts was almost universally considered the best non-quarterback available in the draft.

The John Mackey Award winner for nation’s best tight end was also Florida’s first consensus first-team All-America selection since cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. Pitts signed with Jordan Brand ahead of the NFL Draft.

Pitts’ draft stock consistently rose all year despite the fact that he missed numerous games due to injury. His ceiling is extraordinarily high in the modern NFL as a massive yet agile pass-catching tight end who can line up just as easily at wide receiver. At 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, he also became the first tight end named as a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award for nation’s top pass catcher. In fact, that’s one reason why Pitts is more favorably compared to Calvin Johnson than a contemporary at his position like Darren Waller.

Pitts is largely impossible to defend due to his rare combination of size and speed. He enters the NFL as an elite athlete at his position, and his top-tier ball skills will likely make him an instant-impact playmaker.

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