2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Michael Pittman Jr.
In a star-studded wide receiver class, Michael Pittman Jr. is not even amongst the 10 most recognizable names despite attending the University Of Southern California. Generally, USC wide receivers are held in high regard when they come out of school. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquise Lee, Nelson Agholor, and Robert Woods all took turns playing WR1 for the Trojans at some point over the last decade. How does Pittman stack up to these NFL players and the rest of the 2020 WR draft class?
2020 NFL Draft Michael Pittman Jr. Scouting Report
There are some real issues with Pittman Jr.’s profile. The history of “late breakouts” and senior wide receivers suddenly rising up the rankings is littered with names that had high hopes but ultimately fell short. One could even say that Pittman Jr. compares (unfavorably for him) to Hakeem Butler from the 2019 draft class.
Pittman Jr. did not redshirt his freshmen year and caught six passes and returned two punts and four kickoffs. He was a useful special teams player but was not at all a critical part of the offense at the age of 19. In his age 20 season, Pittman played in eight games and recorded a Dominator Rating of 15% with 404 yards and two touchdowns. Again, at Age 20, we really cannot count this as a breakout. We can credit some of his slow start to an ankle injury sustained in practice but that does not make the production appear.
Pittman’s Age 21 season was where he officially broke out. The raw numbers are just okay (40 receptions, 743 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games) but he had a Dominator Rating of 34% which was actually higher than his senior season and had three of his four best games against UCLA, Utah and Notre Dame. The 2018 USC team was a total trainwreck and Pittman was clearly their most explosive player. This is a solid age 21 breakout season.
Pittman was even better as a senior, racking up 101 receptions (no one else had more than 77), 11 touchdowns and a 30% Dominator Rating. His career dominator rating is only 29%, which is a fairly average number for a collegiate wide receiver. There is no denying he was great in his final season at USC but, you know, what do you expect from a 22 year old playing in the PAC-12? He damn well better be great or we aren’t even going to mention his name.
Projecting Michael Pittman Jr In The 2020 NFL Draft
The prospect bucket for Pittman is really volatile; there is no way around that. The older a player is, particularly when they are not an early declare, their sim scores are going to include players who flamed out. The top five sim scores from Rotoviz’s Box Score Scout for Pittman Jr. are Markus Wheaton, Sterling Shepard, Devin Smith, Josh Huff and Justin Hardy. To be honest, I came into this analysis expecting to like Pittman more than I did. He has great size at 6’4, 223 pounds with good corresponding speed and strength numbers.
However, posting late breakout numbers at the age of 22 in one of the least competitive conferences in the Power Five does not make me super enthusiastic. Now, if the NFL decides that Pittman is a second-round pick, we can always change our tune (though we do not have to entirely). With players like Pittman who have such obvious red flags, I think it is important to not like them MORE than the NFL likes them especially with what Pittman is likely to cost in rookie drafts.
Ben Solak from The Draft Network sums up Pittman’s film-watching grade as follows: “Michael Pittman is a scheme-specific candidate on Day 2 who has starting potential in the NFL. With huge mitts, a long frame, and good competitiveness and physicality at the catch point, Pittman wins in the vertical third of routes — the nine ball, the deep comeback, and the quick out are where he’s at his strongest; he can also win on slants and hitches with his size, catch radius, and some plus routes. Pittman lacks the ideal long speed of a deep receiver, however, and is an average separation player given a long stride and tight hips. In a vertical offense that’s willing to throw contested balls to the sideline, Pittman could play a role as a downfield receiver able to dominate man coverage given his physical profile.”
The holistic take on Pittman Jr. would be that he certainly has the tools and multiple seasons of good-to-great production. He has good size and athleticism that doesn’t disqualify him from being awesome in the NFL. The issues you will find with him are age-related which will largely be solved by draft capital and landing spot.