The first non-quarterback off the board in the past April's NFL Draft, the Atlanta Falcons selected a tight end in Kyle Pitts that his former coaches at the University of Florida described as a unicorn.
"At 6-6, 245 pounds he is, you know, I described him as a unicorn. And he's a unicorn that's out there, because he has wide-receiver skills," Gators head coach Dan Mullen described Pitts before the draft.
"We moved him all over the field, you can line him up to create the matchup. And if you sit there and say, 'OK, we're going to try to cover him with a linebacker.' That's not going to work. You better have a double team with a safety over the top. If you put a corner on him, he can jump over the top of a corner or he can beat him with speed. Safeties, he can run away from you if you have a big safety and, you know, a lot of people say he's a mismatch nightmare but that's what he is."
Now, Pitts is a matchup nightmare that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are tasked with covering successfully on Sunday when the Falcons come to town.
Pitts didn't produce much in his debut with Atlanta in week one, tallying four receptions on eight targets for 31 yards. But traditionally, it takes tight ends time to become acclimated to the speed of the NFL, and a breakout game for Pitts could truly come at any time.
At Florida, Pitts routinely terrorized defenses, combining his size with - as Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski would call it - freakish athleticism en route to 97 receptions, 1419 yards, and 17 touchdowns over his two years as a starter (21 games). At his pro day, Pitts would test off the charts, posting a 4.44-second 40-yard dash, a 33 1/2-inch vertical and a 129-inch broad jump.
"I’ve seen him, and I’ve been hearing a lot about him since he was coming out for the draft. He’s just an athletic freak – he for sure is," Gronkowski said of Pitts on Wednesday.
"I’ve seen some highlights of him and he can play. It’s just unbelievable – his build, his speed, his size, his route running – the capabilities that he has are just second to none. It’s going to be a fun ride to watch him play ball throughout the years.”
Gronkowski, of course, is a unicorn for the tight end position himself. He never possesses Pitts' elite speed throughout the course of his career, but Gronkowski is still fast and threatening with the ball in his hands and can similarly go up and attack the ball in the air as Pitts does.
Hearing Gronkowski describe Pitts as a special player at the position, the Bucs can trust that they will eventually have their hands full defending Pitts on a twice-a-year basis. Perhaps that won't begin in week two, but the time will come.
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