According to NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. is projected to be the NFL’s 3rd most productive rookie wideout:
3) Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts
Drafted: Round 2, No. 34 overall
At No. 43, Pittman Jr. projects as a much “safer” fantasy value than Ruggs, who is ranked just one slot ahead of him. His USC resume shows that he logged the most deep receptions (20-plus air yards) and receiving yards in the Pac-12 last season (12 and 493, per PFF) and the fourth-most yards after the catch in the Pac-12 since 2018 (716, per PFF). Pittman’s potential fit could start in the deep passing game, with Colts receivers recording the fewest deep receptions in the NFL last season (6 on 34 targets, per Next Gen Stats). Factoring in quarterback Philip Rivers’ play-execution history along with veteran receiver T.Y. Hilton’s ability to draw away top defensive players, Pittman has a safe floor with a lot of upside.
Frelund utilized “contextualized data and computer vision models” to project which NFL rookie wide receivers will be the most productive in 2020.
Pittman Jr. was the Colts’ first selection in the 2020 NFL Draft with the 34th overall selection and recently just inked his new rookie contract.
At 6’4”, 223 pounds, the Trojans’ senior captain caught 101 receptions for 1,275 receiving yards (12.6 ypr. avg.) and 11 touchdown receptions during 13 starts in 2019—earning First-Team All-Pac 12 honors and was also named a Second-Team All-American.
Perhaps most impressive was Pittman’s drop rate, as he only had 5 drops in 176 career catchable passes at USC (2.8% drop rate). That number included some highly contested catches, as well as a fair share of 50-50 downfield jumpball wins.
At his young age, Pittman is already a nuanced route runner, who uses his size, frame, and catch radius to haul in passes from his quarterback. While not overly fast, he runs pretty well for his size (4.52 forty time) and should provide the Colts a reliable downfield threat with his ability to ‘play above the rim’ and highpoint the football over smaller opposing defensive backs.
His addition should be music to veteran quarterback Philip Rivers’ ears, who has historically loved throwing to taller, big bodied wideouts deep (from Vincent Jackson to Mike Williams).
Pittman is also an exceptional run blocker along the perimeter, and he is physical and tough to bring down after the catch running in the open field—especially with a full head of steam.
Given his polish, Pittman is expected to contribute immediately and is the projected starter as the Colts ‘X’ wide receiver on the other side of T.Y. Hilton—even as a rookie. He should provide much needed size to complement Hilton’s speed in the Indianapolis starting receiver corps.
Simply stated, Pittman Jr. seems like a natural fit in the Colts’ offense and with Rivers this upcoming season, so it should be no secret as to why he’s ranked this high in the projected most productive rookie wideout rankings for 2020.