Part of a record-setting run, Michael Pittman Jr. was one of 13 wide receivers selected during the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. The previous record was 12 wideouts when Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. led the way in 2014. Pittman was drafted much sooner than his over/under draft position, which was set at 58.5 by bookmakers at William Hill. SI betting analyst Jaime Eisner was all over the UNDER on Pittman’s 2020 NFL draft prop option.
Meet The Colts' Newest Weapon: Michael Pittman Jr.
Raised in Southern California, Pittman went to Valencia High School as a freshman. He transferred to Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, CA for his final three years of high school. A harbinger of things to come, Pittman caught 81 passes for 1,990 yards and 24 touchdowns during his senior season for the Lions. Pittman was a four-star recruit and was named an Army All-American in 2015. After first committing to UCLA, Pittman enrolled at USC.
Beginning his career in a backup role, Pittman posted just six receptions for 82 yards as a freshman. He was a little more involved during his sophomore season as he caught 23 passes for 404 yards and two touchdowns. Starting to show signs of breaking out, Pittman hauled in 41 balls for 758 yards and six scores as a junior. Cranking things up considerably, Pittman had 101 catches for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns during his senior year with the USC Trojans.
How Does Pittman Jr. Fit With Indianapolis?
Indianapolis has been busy during the offseason as the Colts are rebuilding on the fly. One big splash was bringing in QB Philip Rivers who spent 16 seasons with the Chargers. The second significant move was acquiring DT DeForest Buckner. That cost the Colts the 13th overall pick and left Indianapolis without a first-round selection. Waiting patiently, Indianapolis filled one of its biggest needs by selecting Pittman with the first of two second-round picks.
Relying heavily on the ground game, the Colts offense finished bottom three in total pass yards last season. Injuries, mediocre quarterback play and underwhelming overall talent helped make Indianapolis rather one-dimensional on offense. Pittman projects as a Day 1 starter and will line up across from T.Y. Hilton (if healthy) on the perimeter. Parris Campbell (if healthy) and Chester Rogers (if he re-signs as a UFA) will compete to be the Colts' top slot receiver.
As far as a draft grade goes, this selection earned an A-.
How Does Pittman Jr. Project in Fantasy Football?
Pittman (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) will provide a big target for Rivers. Chargers WR Mike Williams is the same size and Rivers connected with him often in Los Angeles. Hilton and Campbell will stretch the field with speed while Pittman will be the physical type of receiver Rivers has relied on throughout his career. It’s tough to gauge the Colts' receiving stats, but Pittman is positioned to top the 41 receptions 607 yards and five touchdowns leading receiver Zach Pascal posted last season.
Rivers is comfortable throwing to rookies, as evidenced by the 105 targets Keenan Allen turned into 1,046 receiving yards and eight touchdowns during his first season in 2013. Rivers has always been a gunslinger and isn’t expected to become a hand-off machine during the final year(s) of his career. Pittman will battle defenders in space, often out leaping them, to pull in passes thrown into tight windows. He projects as an early Round 12 pick in 20-round main event drafts in 2020.
Bottom Line: Our colleagues at Full Time Fantasy Sports have Pittman at No. 56 on their wide receiver average draft position list and No. 158 overall on offense. He will be a popular early pickup during Dynasty League drafts. Rookie wide receivers can be a gamble for fantasy owners. Physical NFL defenders, more intricate offensive schemes and falling in behind veterans can hinder their production. Pittman has the skill set to handle each of those obstacles.
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