Thinking ahead to the Cincinnati Bengals draft, there are plentiful options to complement Joe Burrow. However, adding a high-ceiling tight end like Kyle Pitts makes a lot of sense for the Bengals. While the team does have two solid tight ends on their roster now, Pitts presents a game-changing option. Simply put, they might not have a chance to get a rare talent like Pitts in future drafts.
Cincinnati Bengals Fifth Pick in the Draft Might Need to be Kyle Pitts
Ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals roster looks full of needs. One of those needs, for now, isn’t tight end, but it doesn’t mean their current talent is too good to renovate. Kyle Pitts, who had an incredible 2020 season at the University of Florida, looks like a potentially incredible weapon for Burrow and the Cincinnati offense. While the Bengals could target another area in the draft, Pitts gives the offense another gear. Some Bengals insiders argue that a tight end is a little too rich that early in the draft. However, what Pitts brings to the table shifts that narrative.
It’s not as if the Bengals’ tight ends are lighting up opposing defenses. For one, starting tight end C.J. Uzomah went down with a Torn Achillies tendon in a Week 2 loss to the Cleveland Browns. While he could come back stronger than ever, that’s a scary injury in a game built on speed. With that said, while Uzomah is a valuable target, he’s not someone who really stretched the field. As for Drew Sample, the team’s second-round pick in 2019, it’s just not in his DNA to be a vertical weapon. Sample excels in the running game as a blocker but isn’t an explosive option.
Why Kyle Pitts Over Other Receiving Options for Bengals
Atop this year’s NFL Draft class, the Cincinnati Bengals will have several enticing options if they want a weapon for Burrow. His LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase, Heisman Trophy Winner DeVonta Smith, and Alabama standout Jaylen Waddle all project as potential stars, if not long-term starts in the NFL. However, Pitts has something none of them has; star pass-catching ability in a 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame.
Additionally, the Bengals really don’t need to find their next number one receiver. Sure, A.J. Green is on his way out the door. Fortunately for the team, their 2019 second-round pick, Tee Higgins, seems well on his way to stardom. Higgins is a clear fit as the team’s top target. While the team has a great slot receiver in Tyler Boyd and a very solid red-zone target in Auden Tate, they need more skilled and diversified pass catchers.
The last time the Cincinnati Bengals used the draft’s first round to pick a tight end, it worked out pretty well. With the 21st pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, they tabbed Tyler Eifert. While Eifert struggled with injury in Cincinnati, he was a red zone menace when healthy. In essence, he provided a perfect complement to Green during his prime. It would make sense to pair Higgins with another pass-catching tight end, with Pitts a clear answer.
The Importance of Tight Ends in the Modern NFL
During the 2020 season, Florida’s passing offense topped all of college football. The Kyle Trask-led ariel attack piled up 4,543 yards and 46 touchdowns. Pitts compiled 1,492 yards and 18 touchdowns. Incredibly, that’s about 33% of the yardage and 39% of the touchdowns. For an offense that crushed college defenses, Pitts was atop the food chain. While NFL defenses offer a tougher task, his speed and size are still a rare combination.
In recent years, more of the league’s premier teams are relying on a dominant tight end in their offense. Look at the Kansas City Chiefs, Travis Kelce is a lethal target for Patrick Mahomes. For the San Francisco 49ers, George Kittle’s sheer presence opens up a lot of the team’s passing game. For the Baltimore Ravens, Mark Andrews is one of the team’s most important franchise players. That’s all to say, Pitts projects like one of those elite options. As he led Florida in receiving yardage and touchdowns, he showed his ability to be an immediate game-breaker. In the NFL, he will still be able to use his speed to break away from linebackers in coverage. Further, he’d have the size to catch jump balls in the end zone, boxing out safeties and corners.
Kyle Pitts Plays to Joe Burrow’s Strengths
Last season, the Bengals offensive line did a bad job keeping Burrow upright. Part of that, though, did have to do with Burrow’s tendency to hold on to the ball for a little too long, a common learning curve for rookies. However, Burrow can do amazing things when plays break down, finding open targets as the defense goes on the chase. Adding Kyle Pitts into the offense gives him a very valuable target for those off-script plays.
Sure, Burrow will enjoy Pitts’s vertical ability. The 24-year-old quarterback vowed to improve his effectiveness in that area and Pitts certainly helps in that department. However, players like Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers have launched MVP campaigns with their ability to make something out of nothing. Pitts’s unique size makes him a jump ball target in these sorts of settings and his speed gives him the ability to turn those plays into big ones. The fit seems strong for a Bengals team that’s building an offense designed around Burrow’s skills. Pitts will bring out some of the best parts of Burrow’s game and vice versa.
The Cincinnati Bengals have plentiful draft options with their fifth overall pick. However, the fit for Pitts is certainly an intriguing one. As the team continues to build around Burrow, adding the versatile Pitts makes their offense even more dangerous. Not to mention, the 20-year-old Pitts is an exciting option for their long term core. If they don’t draft Pitts now, they might struggle to fill the tight end spot down the road.
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