In rookie drafts, you will more often than not have to decide on which Wide Receiver to take in the 2nd Round. You will likely have a combination of Denzel Mims, Michael Pittman, Tee Higgins, Brandon Aiyuk, Laviska Shenault, and Bryan Edwards at your disposal. In this series I will be walking through what I saw on film and my opinion on each WR with an ADP in the 2nd round of rookie drafts. First, I will cover Michael Pittman Jr. and why I believe he has the potential to be the best 2020 rookie Wide Receiver.
At USC, Pittman was a four year player who showed improvement every year, until he truly broke out in 2019 finishing with 101 receptions, 1275 yards and 11 touchdowns. He lead the PAC-12 in receptions and receiving yards his senior year, in a conference which includes fellow draftees Aiyuk and Shenault.
The 6’4, 223 pound former USC Trojan ran a 4.52 40 yard dash at the combine, which is impressive for his size. He was nearly as fast as two of the consensus top Wide Receivers in the class with Jaelon Reagor running a 4.47 and Ceedee Lamb running a 4.50. What is even more impressive is his game speed, which seems even faster than he ran at the combine. Multiple times on film, he is able to pick up yards after the catch and finish the play.
The most obvious trait shown by Pittman on film is his toughness. This comes out in many ways, including his ability to dominate on jump balls, using his 6’4 frame and 89th percentile catch radius (player profiler) to go up and get the ball over defenders. This is a trait the Colts have been seeking to go alongside Hilton.
Another way I saw his toughness was through his short and intermediate routes. He showed he was unafraid to go up the middle and take a hit to pick up yards. He was not phased by hard hitting linebackers and safeties as he finished last season with only 5 drops on 176 catchable passes per PFF.
The last trait I saw that really stuck out was his willingness and ability to block. This outlook looks good for his NFL career because he can stay on the field for run plays. Whether a good run turns in to a breakaway run or not is often determined by a Wide Receivers ability to stay in front of his defender, and Pittman seems to have that ability.
Now to talk about his opportunity in Indianapolis, Pittman has the ability to step in as a day one starter. He will be joining TY Hilton, Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal in the Colts Wide Receiver room, where he could easily be their number two Wide Receiver behind Hilton. There will be plenty of opportunities to thrive and with Hilton’s injury history, he could be the number one sooner rather than later. Colts Head Coach Frank Reich was quoted saying, “We envision Michael as that ‘X’ receiver that every now and then you can just say, ‘Hey, they are playing a lot of man-coverage. Let’s put him into the boundary and throw on-on-one and expect him to win.’" The Colts have always loved using their Tight Ends as big redzone targets and with Ebron gone, I could see Pittman taking on some of their targets. On top of that, he often ran the short and intermediate routes in college, making him a versatile weapon for the Colts.
Phillip Rivers will be throwing him the ball, at least for this year and over his career with the Chargers he has shown the ability to support multiple weapons. He struggled last year behind the 29th ranked offensive line in the NFL but will now be throwing behind a top 5 unit. With more time, Rivers will have less of a need to check down to his running backs and have more time to sling it. My main hesitancy on being all-in on Pittman is the unknown at the Quarterback position in Indianapolis beyond this year.
My pro comparison for Pittman is the Lions Wide Receiver Kenny Golladay. They had nearly identical numbers at the combine, they are both 6'4 and neither of them are burners, but they have the speed to create separation and get yards after the catch. I would say that Pittman has a ceiling around where Golladay is now. He most likely will never be a high end WR1 in fantasy but can get in the range of high end WR2 or even low end WR1 if there is a year where he scores a lot of touchdowns.
The bottom line is Michael Pittman Jr is fundamentally strong, does not drop the ball and he is quick for his size. I am not downgrading the other receivers in this 2020 rookie class but his combination of size, speed, skill and opportunity set him up for a successful career with the Colts and could end up being the top Wide Receiver from the 2020 draft class. I will be taking him at the end of the first in non-superflex leagues and at the top of the second round in superflex leagues behind only Lamb, Reagor, Jeudy, Jefferson and Ruggs. The best part is, I have gotten him and seen him go mid-late 2nd round. Michael Pittman Jr. is a great value in this deep rookie class and I am grabbing shares of him wherever I can.
I will be continuing this series over the next couple months and would love to hear your comments! Tweet me any responses, questions or advice on how to improve @ZtwiceFF. Thanks!
And if you want to watch any film on Pittman or anyone in this rookie class or the next, you should definitely checkout the film room for the FF Astronauts!