Embrace debate: ESPN analyst blasts Todd McShay for putting Kyle Pitts over Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith
The lead-up to the NFL Draft is a busy time for debates surrounding mock drafts, big boards and the like. One of Todd McShay’s ESPN colleagues has taken issue with the draft analyst ranking Kyle Pitts ahead of fellow former SEC pass-catchers Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith.
During a recent “NFL Live,” Jeff Saturday didn’t hold back.
“They lost their mind,” Saturday said of McShay’s mock, per 247Sports.
“I’m not taking away from (Pitts’) talent,” Saturday added. “What I am taking away from is how NFL defenses play tight ends. And I know this much, I played 14 years in the league. I’ve been covering it eight, or however many I’ve been retired, I can count on one hand how many tight ends I would say dominate the game week in and week out. What I do know is with those tight ends, most of them are coupled with some fantastic outside receivers. So if I’m picking six or higher, or whatever, and I pick a tight end I would say position specific would tell you to go Ja’Marr Chase. Go (DeVonta Smith). Go one of those guys who can do more to open up your offense than what you’re putting, and I understand we move tight ends all over. We do all these kinds of things, but at the end of the day can he consistently go beat those guys?
“And we have seen, the league has shown you, you can get them in the third round, the second round, the sixth round. Keep naming them, and you can still get those guys. To go spin (taking Pitts) that high to me, I think you’re putting the position ahead of, even as good as he is, of where a guy should be slotted in that draft.”
McShay explained to Mike Greenberg why he mocked Pitts at No. 6 to the Philadelphia Eagles, ahead of Chase at No. 7 to the Detroit Lions and Smith at No. 8 to the Miami Dolphins in a trade.
“I think he’s got a chance to be (like George Kittle and Travis Kelce), I really do,” McShay said of Pitts, per 247Sports. “He’s still getting bigger and stronger, but the first thing I’ve really come to appreciate is at about 235, 240 pounds, he’s actually willing to block. They utilized him in-line and he would fight and try to sustain. But what makes him special is his ability to, first of all, play all over the field. You can play him in-line, you can put him in the slot, you can use him as a wide receiver. And then, after the catch, this guy, he is special.
“He’s got a chance to be the 11th tight end in the history of the NFL Draft to be a top-eight pick. Think about that, how many guys we’ve seen. I put him ahead of the wide receivers, I put him ahead of DeVonta Smith, I put him ahead of Ja’Marr Chase, and I did it because I just think he’s such a matchup piece. In today’s NFL, you can utilize him in so many different ways.”
All three players mentioned are almost certain to be drafted in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. We’ll see April 29 if Saturday or McShay is right about which elite pass-catcher goes first.