Nowhere has the shift been extra pronounced than on the tight finish place, as soon as the province of dutiful blockers and complementary receiving targets. Kittle is the muscle of the San Francisco 49ers’ floor recreation, cracking into linebackers to clear house for outdoor runs, and the focus of its aerial assault, amassing a team-high 1,053 yards through the 2019 season, which ended with the 49ers within the Super Bowl.
Kansas City’s Kelce is a much less famend blocker however a much bigger vertical risk; till late within the 2020 season, he led all N.F.L. gamers, not simply tight ends, in whole receiving yards. In making an attempt to re-establish their championship bona fides, the New England Patriots added a pair of tight ends this low season, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, giving the group an opportunity to recreate the offensive confusion that made the pairing of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez so profitable within the early 2010s.
To defend in opposition to such threats, “what you need is for someone like me to go play linebacker,” stated Tony Gonzalez, the Hall of Fame tight finish who within the 1990s and 2000s prefigured this age of rangy receiving threats. “But we don’t want to play linebacker; we want to score touchdowns.”
At Florida’s pro-day exercise for N.F.L. scouts in March, Pitts flashed the attributes that make him what Renner phrases “a true modern tight end weapon,” registering a wingspan of almost 7 toes and a 33½-inch vertical leap and operating his 40-yard sprint in 4.44 seconds — quicker than some All-Pro extensive receivers.
Shortly thereafter, Pitts laid out skilled aspirations that stretch past going within the prime 5 of this 12 months’s draft, as many analysts predict he’ll: “Start at a high level and keep increasing every year and being able to do other things that other tight ends aren’t doing,” Pitts stated. “I feel like I’ll be the best to ever do it.”
When Pitts arrived in Gainesville in 2018 as a 17-year-old freshman, the problem for Florida coaches lay in convincing him of all that his physique may do. “It was just a learning process of him understanding how to play in his frame,” stated Larry Scott, Pitts’s tight finish coach for his first two years with the Gators and now the pinnacle coach at Howard University. Scott marveled at Pitts’s catch radius — his skill to regulate to passes near his shoe tops or excessive above his helmet — and taught him when to outrun defenders and when to ask contact and create leverage.