The 2021 NFL Draft is approaching, but questions are coming faster than answers. At this point in the draft process, speculation carries more weight than results. People are debating quarterback rankings and landing spots. Everyone has an opinion about which franchise quarterbacks will be traded. We won’t have any true answers until the draft itself.
One key debate surrounds the receivers of this class. Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are in the top tier of targets, and many argue about how they rank amongst each other. Many have Waddle third, but his speed might boost his NFL draft stock.
This debate is intriguing, but one player needs to be added to this mix. Kyle Pitts might be listed as a tight end, but he is truly just a weapon. He can block on the line, line up in the backfield or play outside.
Jaylen Waddle and Kyle Pitts are different in a variety of ways. Waddle is undersized, but he relies on speed. Pitts uses his size and catch radius to make wild plays. So, who will be drafted first?
The Case for Jaylen Waddle
First and foremost, you can argue that a top receiver is more valuable than a tight end. There are only a handful of tight ends in the NFL who are true game-changers every week, and only two or three can be considered the top target on a powerful offense.
However, this isn’t a debate about positions. Waddle has the makings of a WR1. He has speed that you simply can’t coach. He will instantly be one of the fastest players in the NFL next season as a rookie. While he uses his speed, his agility and athleticism are included in his bag of tricks.
Also, Waddle can change the game as a punt returner. This skill is often overlooked, but he was one of the best players on special teams during his time with the Crimson Tide. He can make the first tackler miss, and his speed helps him consistently gain 20 or more yards.
While Waddle likely won’t be WR1, the receivers ahead of him will be drafted early. With the number of teams early in the first round who need a receiver being so high, Waddle might not make it past 11 overall to the Giants.
The Case for Kyle Pitts
When you look at positional value, there is no doubt that receivers are more valuable. That being said, the gap between Kyle Pitts and TE2 is larger than any other position group this season. If you don’t draft Kyle Pitts, you’re not getting a difference-maker at tight end.
One could argue that Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Gronk are the three best tight ends in the NFL. They play for the only three teams who have competed for a Super Bowl in the past two seasons. If you can make it work at that position, you are in rare air and a common choice for NFL picks.
The beauty of Pitts is that he is freakishly athletic for his size. His catch radius is superb, and no one can match up with him at his size. He succeeded against every type of coverage, and his sheer presence made it easier for other players like Kadarius Toney to get open.
If teams pass on Jaylen Waddle, they could land Elijah Moore or Rashod Bateman later in the draft. If they fail to draft Kyle Pitts, there is only one other tight end who has a chance to start as a rookie.
Who Will Be Drafted First?
This is a tough debate. Pitts’ draft ceiling is No. 4 overall to the Falcons, but his floor is 15 to the Patriots. In most mock drafts, Waddle goes anywhere from No. 7 overall to No. 11. However, a few trades back could change his landing spot and cause him to slide.
If I had to choose, I’m predicting for Pitts to be drafted first. It might not be the right decision, but someone is going to fall in love with his size and hands. The Eagles would make a lot of sense for Pitts. The Eagles have some of the worst NFL Futures odds to win next year’s Super Bowl, so they clearly need someone on offense who can shift the scales.
Both of these players have a good chance of thriving in the NFL depending on where they go. However, I think it is more likely for Kyle Pitts to be drafted before Jaylen Waddle.