Best in draft? Best TE prospect ever? Dolphins tell Gators' Kyle Pitts they'll be in touch

Hal Habib
Palm Beach Post
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Brian Flores was there, standing mere yards away, when Florida tight end Kyle Pitts put up staggering numbers Wednesday.

An 83 3/8-inch wingspan?

A 6-foot-5, 245-pound man running the 40 in 4.44 seconds?

Those are the kind of numbers that would have jumped out even if Flores was behind his desk in Davie. But since Flores was in Gainesville, collecting ideas for his No. 6 overall draft pick … yes, they talked ... and ... 

“He said we’ll get back on the phone this week,” Pitts said after his pro day workout had wrapped up and draft boards were getting torn up faster than March Madness brackets.

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Yes, the Dolphins have a good tight end in Mike Gesicki.

But what if they can pair him with a potentially elite tight end who conjures images of Darren Waller, the Las Vegas Raiders’ Pro Bowl tight end who is just beginning to hit his prime with 2,341 yards over the past two seasons?

“I think that would cause a lot of problems,” Pitts said of joining any team with a quality veteran tight end.

Pitts' wingspan isn't just amazing, it's historic

First, a little perspective. While 83 3/8 sounds monstrous on its own, Pro Football Focus reported that it’s longer than any tight end or wide receiver in the NFL in the past 20 years. Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson measured 82 inches. If that made him Megatron, what is Pitts?

“People call me Unicorn,” he said. “It’s kind of a special nickname because Unicorn, you don’t find many of them,” Pitts said.

(As you may have already gathered, when your numbers are this far off the charts, you can afford to be as understated as Pitts.)

Waller, who is 6-6 and 255, checked in with an 80 1/2-inch wingspan at the Combine. Kansas City All-Pro Travis Kelce, who is 6-5 and 260, has an 80-inch wingspan. At least Kevin McHale, the Boston Celtics’ legendary lanky Hall of Famer, reportedly had a 96-inch wingspan.

Pitts combines that with quickness you rarely find in men his size. His unofficial 40 time was 4.44, which would have beaten Waller’s 4.46 and Kelce’s 4.61.

Enough with the numbers. Testimonials?

“I think you can make a strong case he’s the best player in the draft,” said NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, who believes Pitts can become the league’s best tight end.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper went further.

“Kyle Pitts is my highest-graded tight end EVER,” Kiper wrote.

So even though receiver and running back are greater offensive needs for the Dolphins, general manager Chris Grier subscribes to the best-available philosophy. Considering there will be a run on quarterbacks ahead of the Dolphins, there’s a decent chance Miami will be staring at having to decide among several playmaking threats, including Pitts and receivers DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Ja’Marr Chase. Grier might consider the depth of the receiver pool vs. Kyle Pitts being one of a kind.

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It would be a stretch to knock the potential of any of them, and after the past several seasons, the Dolphins are hardly in a position to question how much damage an elite tight end can cause. Last season, Kelce caught eight passes for 136 yards and a touchdown against Miami. Waller gashed the Dolphins with five receptions for 112 yards, a 22.4 average.

So what are NFL teams to do against Pitts?

“As a coach in the NFL, if you find yourself in unfavorable matchups you will find yourself out of a job,” former Auburn coach Gene Chizik said on SEC Network.

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts scores against Kentucky.

Mullen can't wait to see Pitts' matchup problems

Gators coach Dan Mullen sounded eager to see Pitts endanger coaches’ job security on Sundays.

“I think his ability to create matchup problems — I think he’s an elite wide receiver and I think he’s elite tight end,” Mullen said. “And when you’re that, that’s what causes the problem of what personnel grouping you’re in, who you’re going to match up against him. I was in a meeting one day and a guy came up said, ‘OK, he’s kind of like a unicorn and the only way you can defend a unicorn is with another unicorn, so if you don’t have a unicorn on defense, you’ve got a problem.’ ”

Almost as if drawing up X’s and O’s orally, Mullen described what’s going to happen. And if you’re a Dolphins fan reading this, envision the moving pieces to be Gesicki and receivers DeVante Parker and Will Fuller.

“If you’re going to put a corner on him, here’s this 6-6, 245-pound guy that actually we can attach to the line so what are you doing with that corner when he comes in to be a blocker?” Mullen said. “If you’re going to blanch a linebacker on him and all of a sudden you have the linebacker and you say, ‘OK, our run fits are going to work right here,’ and then he goes and flexes out. And what do you do at that point? How are you rolling coverage? To or away from him, and what does that mean to the other receivers that are on the field, because now, are you rolling coverage to your No. 1 receiver or are you rolling coverage to the tight end?”

Gators tight end Kyle Pitts uses his range to catch a TD pass against Ole Miss in September.

Hard as it is to believe now, Pitts began as a high school quarterback outside Philadelphia. This was as Kelce and George Kittle were tearing apart defenses, so Pitts’ father sat him down and suggested moving to tight end. When Pitts mentioned it to his coach, the coach all but laughed.

“You’d be lucky to get a scholarship,” Pitts remembers him saying.

There wasn’t much to say after that.

“That’s when I transferred,” Pitts said.

It wasn’t just that Pitts was convinced of his potential at tight end.

“I guess you could say I sucked at quarterback,” he said.

Pitts won the 2020 Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end after catching 43 passes for 770 yards (17.9 average) and 12 touchdowns in eight games.

All that was left was to put on a show Wednesday. With Flores standing there.

"Me and him did talk,” Pitts said. “We talked for a little bit. He said we'll get back on the phone this week. I feel like I did pretty well performing. He said I was doing pretty well. I PR'd in everything I was training for.”

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Pitts said he and Flores did not get into how the Dolphins might use him in conjunction with their other playmakers including Gesicki, but he wouldn’t be surprised if that comes up via Zoom soon.

“No teams have mentioned using me as a receiver,” Pitts said. “They mentioned utilizing me in different areas but not just specifically receiver.”

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