If the Indianapolis Colts are looking for a big-bodied receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft, USC’s Michael Pittman Jr. should be the guy.
The 2020 NFL Draft is a big for the Indianapolis Colts, and by extension, general manager Chris Ballard. The Colts look ready to win right now, but are also building for the future. They’ve made some good moves in free agency, and now the focus shifts to the NFL Draft.
With the Philip Rivers signing, draft experts have begun to mock big-bodied wide receivers in the second or third round. Most of those mocks have the Indianapolis Colts selecting either Clemson’s Tee Higgins or Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool. While those two are solid players, USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. might be the best fit for the Colts.
First, let’s go into a little background. After three seasons of growing production, Pittman Jr. finally broke out in his senior season with the Trojans. He caught 101 passes for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns in the 2019 season. That season brought about an invitation to the Senior Bowl.
While others grabbed headlines down in Mobile, Pittman Jr. got to work and won in a variety of ways in his reps. He has a well-rounded skill set that helped him separate in a multitude of ways, and left the week with more fans than he already had.
Fast forward to the NFL Scouting Combine, and Pittman Jr. won big once again. He posted a 4.50 second 40 yard dash, which was excellent for his size, as he listed at 6’4 and 223 pounds. His agility and explosion drills went well, and Pittman Jr. finished with an elite RAS of 8.19.
Diving Into the Film
This will be a mini scouting reports of sorts, so let’s take a look.
The first thing that jumps out on tape with Michael Pittman Jr. is his hands and his ball skills. Pittman Jr. has a great pair of mitts and reels in just about everything thrown his way. When working vertically down the field, he also comes down with most passes his way. He can high point the ball and win with his frame in contested spots, and also makes great adjustments to the football, at times working through contact.
Pittman Jr’s route running and movement skills are very, very good for his size. At the line of scrimmage, he’s pretty sudden for his size and gets into his stems with physicality. His route tree isn’t fully developed, but he’s good at plenty. He has really crisp breaks on both in-breaking and out-breaking routes, exploding off his plant foot really well. Pittman Jr. is good at selling an outside stem, and uses his hands and physicality to his advantage to cross the face of defenders and create separation on quick routes. When working vertically, Pittman Jr. can stack defenders and win with long speed, as well as work back to the ball on hitches/comebacks, with great ability to sink his hips. Pittman Jr. also works back to the football extremely well.
Play strength is another valuable trait in Pittman Jr.’s game, as he has no issue with press coverage and can often beat it. We’ve talked about how it helps him win vertically and horizontally in the passing game. It shows up after the catch as well, where he can use his strength to to shake off defenders while also possessing an extra gear. Pittman Jr. is also a great blocker.
His fit with the Indianapolis Colts
There are a few key points to highlight when it comes to Michael Pittman Jr. and his fit with the Colts, especially when it comes to Ballard’s tendencies with prospects. It’s clear that the Senior Bowl means a great deal to Ballard and his staff, and so does being a captain on your team. As you can see from the tweet above, Pittman Jr. was a team captain, and performed well down in Mobile.
Being a good athlete is also an important part of the equation. The 8.19 RAS is key, and something Ballard and his staff pay attention to. Relative athletic score matters when talking about wide receivers.
Let’s bring this thing full circle. We opened by talking about how it’s possible that the Colts will look for a bigger receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft, someone that Rivers will trust to throw to deep down the field. But, it’s also important that it’s a good fit in Frank Reich’s offense, and offense that features elements of the quick passing game, where separators will be preferred. Michael Pittman Jr. brings all of that to the table.
When the second day of the draft rolls around, don’t be shocked if Pittman Jr. is the guy Ballard has pegged to wear an Indianapolis Colts uniform. The fit is outstanding and he’d be a great contributor from day one in the offense.