Michael Pittman Jr. Can Make an Immediate Impact With the Indianapolis Colts
The 6'4" Pittman -- the son of former NFL running back Michael Pittman - saw his stock rise in 2019 as his production gained a significant boost from USC offensive coordinator Graham Harrell's air raid system and the emergence of freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis. Pittman posted a career-high 101 receptions, including 11 touchdowns during his breakout campaign.
How He Wins
Pittman's strength is his ability to consistently come down with the ball when it's within reach. As this chart from CFB Film Room demonstrates, Pittman posted an elite catch rate and drop rate in 2019.
Here's a breakdown of Michael Pittman Jr.'s 2019 season. Few receivers are more consistent than Pittman, as demonstrated by his catch rate and drop rate numbers. pic.twitter.com/WTIPd3ASr8
— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) April 21, 2020
Since Pittman doesn't have blazing speed -- he ran a 4.52 forty-yard dash at the combine -- it's critical that he demonstrates this type of skill set. Despite the fact he doesn't consistently create separation, his ability to track the ball and use his size to his advantage allows him to come down with contested catches at a high rate.
Pittman doesn't have to be limited to being a downfield possession receiver, however. According to Sports Info Solutions, Pittman was USC's primary target on screen passes in 2019, where he averaged 7.1 yards per reception on 25 screens. Since Pittman isn't an elusive runners, he wins with power, averaging 3.4 yards after contact per receptions on those screen plays -- a trait which shouldn't come as a shock given his dad's background.
What to Expect in Indianapolis
Given his size and his consistency coming down with the football, Pittman makes an ideal downfield weapon. That gives him a high ceiling from a fantasy perspective.
According to Sports Info Solutions, the Colts completed just 27.2 percent of their throws at 20 or more yards downfield in 2019, the second-worst rate in the league. That lack of production partially falls on quarterback Jacoby Brissett, but also on primary deep threats T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal, who combined to haul in just four of 12 catchable targets on the deep ball.
In 2019 with the Los Angeles Chargers, Rivers attempted 73 passes at 20 or more yards downfield, tied for the third-most in the league. With Rivers used to taking shots downfield, it was imperative that the Colts upgraded his weapons in this draft, and it looks like Pittman will be on the receiving end of many of those throws.
In this role, Pittman should be one of the top rookie receivers to own in fantasy football this season, potentially even surpassing the value of some receivers who came off the board in the first round.