Rookie Spotlight: Michael Pittman Jr., USC
Height: 6’3 7/8″
Weight: 219 pounds
Hands: 9 1/8″
Arm: 32 3/8″
40 yard dash: 4.55 (unofficial)
NFL Comparison: Kenny Golladay
– tracks the ball well
– elite catch radius
– elite hands
– good body control
– capable route runner
– jumpball proficient
– trouble creating separation at times
– average speed
– hips stay high
2019 Team Market Share Numbers:
28% team receptions
29% team receiving yards
31% team receiving TDs
Scouting Notes: Pittman Jr. is the guy you want on the field in a hail mary situation at the end of regulation. Tall and powerful with significant leaping ability, he is adept at high-pointing the ball over defenders and coming down with it in hand. But first, one has to find the ball in the air, and Pittman is especially proficient at tracking and adjusting to the ball as it descends. He’s also got a wide catch radius and sticky hands – all the better to bring in contested catches. I wish he didn’t have to deal with so many contested catches, although it’s impressive that he can come down with them so often, but Pittman isn’t great at creating separation before the ball is in the air on tape. Still, you won’t find many, if any drops when watching Pittman in a live setting or on tape. Per PFF, he only dropped 3 balls on 144 catchable passes in his entire college career.
During the week of Senior Bowl practices, however, he showed an ability to get open on shorter digs, slants and curls, boxing out defenders to create space and frame the ball to see it in, even sometimes catching passes from a bad QB like Shea Patterson. He has the loose hips as a guy who likes horse-riding in his spare time (he actually one day wants to get into tie-down roping). Pittman was impressive enough through his first two days of practice in Mobile to take the rest of the week off and rest on his laurels.
He keeps his hips high coming off the line, and he doesn’t possess blazing speed or burst. Pittman is a decent route runner which helps his cause, and he can block well enough, although this was not necessarily an aspect of his game that was most impressive in a live setting after comparing him as a blocker to the other WRs on the North roster. Lord knows we had plenty of time to watch as Matt Patricia’s Lions staff seemed to spend as much time evaluating their group of WRs as blockers as they did as pass-catchers. Pittman told scouts that his attention to the fundamentals can be attributed in part to his father, Michael Pittman, who was a Super Bowl-winning NFL running back for 10 years. It’s crazy because Pittman Jr.’s long and lean body type, while impressive, really doesn’t resemble that of his rocked-up, bowling ball father at all.
Fantasy Outlook: Pittman’s size and aggressiveness at the catch point won’t go unnoticed at the draft and some scouts think that with great testing, someone could be interested in him as early as the Top 50-75 picks. His NFL pedigree strengthens his stock too, as kids of pro ballers usually have a pretty good idea of what it takes to maintain viability at the next level – I don’t see him falling past the 3rd round. Pittman Jr. is probably a bit more suited to the X receiver position, but he could play slot as well. He’ll need to get better at busting press coverage to be a premier playmaker in the NFL, but that’s within reach, and his frame and athleticism will make him an instant red-zone option. He’s a solid bet in dynasty leagues and someone we’ll likely see shape into a early-to-mid Round 2 option in traditional 12-team rookie drafts by the time the dust settles on NFL draft season depending on landing spot.
– Pittman Jr., who has 95 receptions for 1,222 yards and 11 TDs this season, won the 2019 Pop Warner College Football Award, is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and a semifinalist for the Witten Award. He is fourth nationally in receptions (7.9), 10th in receiving yards (101.8) and 13th in receiving TDs. He has played on many of USC’s special teams throughout his career (he made the All-Pac-12 first team as a special teamer in 2017).
EDITOR’S NOTE: Like all rookie profiles, this one will continue to be updated through the winter and spring with intel as we acquire it. When applicable/available, these profiles will be supplemented with transcriptions of scouting combine interviews with the players following the event, new photos and videos as well as other media we can gather through our offseason pursuits of fantasy dominance.