INDIANAPOLIS – “I’m not sure he’s not the best receiver in the draft.”
Frank Reich says that now when describing his newest wideout Michael Pittman, who was the 8th receiver drafted in 2020, when the Colts took the 6-4, 223-pound USC product with the 34th overall pick.
But back on March 29th, nearly a month before the 2020 NFL Draft, an admittedly smitten Reich gave his pitch for Pittman becoming a member of the Colts.
“Who else do I like better than this guy for our team?” Reich said, with video of this appearing in the latest ‘With The Next Pick’ series from the Colts.
“And I struggle to answer that question. I love this guy, love this guy.”’
Reich’s desire to get another big body wideout was something we saw from him during the 2019 offseason, when the Colts signed the 6-4, 225-pound Devin Funchess in free agency, much because of what the head coach thought his wideout group needed.
That hope, even with Funchess gone, hadn’t lessened one bit when Reich started looking at Pittman.
“I always talk about receivers (and) there are kind of four factors into it,” the head coach, who was an NFL wide receiver position coach in 2011 and 2012, says. “You’ve got to feel the receiver’s power. So we see Michael as being an X-receiver and being the kind of guy you can line up and go one-on-one with. The four factors that go into that are size and strength, and speed and quickness. It is (that) combination of four things that go into receiver. That’s what the defensive back feels when he comes off the ball. Michael’s got size, he’s got strength, he’s got good speed for his size, and then he has what we call good-body quickness. He is not a jukey receiver like the small slot receivers you’re seeing, but when you have a big man who has good body quickness, that presents a problem. Then he has excellent ball skills, really good feet for a big man. Sometimes you get a big man and they win one-on-one matchups just by outmuscling people. Michael has good enough feet and good enough technique and skill that he is a good route runner.
“It usually takes receivers a little bit of time, but we think he has the maturity and the skill to develop probably faster than most. It still will take some time, but we are excited about that. You’ve got to have guys like a T.Y. Hilton who you know can be your dog, can be your go-to guy. Michael needs to develop into that for us. That’s our hope, that is our vision for him.”
After averaging 17.6 yards and 18.5 yards per catch in 2017 and 2018, Pittman became a dominant No. 1 wideout for USC last season with his consistency over an entire season.
He caught 101 balls for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns, despite having a true freshman at quarterback for the vast majority of the year.
“I feel like I try to be diverse in what I can do,” Pittman, who ran 4.52 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, says. “I feel like I use my hands well. Being a bigger guy, people expect me to be physical and strong. So I have that, but I can also do all the stuff that all the smaller guys can like the quick feet and route running.”
Pittman’s footwork and short area quickness numbers for a guy his size allows him to create some separation, and not strictly rely on his strength of snatching 50/50 balls away from DBs.
While Pittman is the son of a former NFL running back (Michael), he thought for a while that defense would be where he’d play at the college level.
A high school linebacker and safety eventually developed into a receiver, and Pittman brings a tenacious defensive mentality to the wideout position.
When Day 1 of the 2020 Draft came and went with 6 wide receivers going, and Pittman not hearing his name, it was a disappointing night for the Round 1 hopeful.
The shirt of choice on Day 2 was blue for Pittman, believing that the Colts would be calling his name quite early.
“It’s such a great pick because I think they brought me in to impact like right now,” Pittman says.
They certainly did.
And Reich has his guy.