By: Andrew Thomison
Last years 2020 NFL Draft was regarded as being one of the deepest at the receiver position in quite some time. It was only a matter of time before many receivers came flying off the board. Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb Tee Higgins and Justin Jefferson were some of the many stars which were taken in the first round.
This wide receiver class was so deep that the Colts were able to land a first-round talent in Michael Pittman Jr. with the 34th pick. The 6’4” wideout brought a variety of unique elements to the team’s offense, which is something the team had been missing during the 2019 season.
For someone of Pittman Jr.’s size, he appears to be much quicker than what is 40-time — 4.52 seconds — would suggest. Frank Reich likely saw the same thing and took advantage of that, utilizing Pittman Jr. for more than just his big frame. Some of Reich’s best scheme designs for the rookie wideout were play-action crossing routes and end-arounds.
Although there were some small bumps in the road early on for Pittman, including an injury which kept him out for a few weeks, he still managed to make his presence known. The rookie hauled in 40 receptions for 503 yards and 1 touchdown last season, according to profootballreference.com. What’s most noteworthy about his total yards, in my mind, is of his 502 receiving yards, 293 came from creating yards after the catch.
Last season, there were several instances where Pittman Jr. was able to turn a 5-10-yard pass into a 20-25 yard gain with his ability to create yards after the catch. We saw the rookie score his first-ever touchdown by displaying his YAC ability, catching a pass on a play-action concept where he ran a crossing route and outracing all of the Green Bay Packers’ players to the end zone.
The more Pittman Jr. got involved in the offense, the more he showcased his ability to be more than just your prototypical, big-bodied wideout. Pittman Jr. became a unique weapon for the team’s offense towards the back half of last season.
His best two games were against the Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers. In both matchups, Pittman Jr. caught a total of 11 catches for 167 yards and 1 touchdown. And while those numbers may not seem like much on paper, the rookies’ role played a major part in helping the Colts secure two of the biggest wins last season.
Pittman Jr. really flashed in the Wild Card game against the Buffalo Bills, snagging 5 catches for 90 yards, including helping the team convert on multiple third downs in key situations. Even though the team fell just shy of pulling off what would’ve been a massive upset, Pittman Jr.’s production didn’t go unnoticed.
Fans, coaches and fellow teammates are right to be excited about Pittman Jr.’s capabilities going into this season. His numbers may not have been “eye-popping” to some, but given the way Reich and the offensive staff used Pittman Jr.’s strengths to their advantage last season, the Colts might’ve found themselves a rising star.