With the 34th overall pick, the Indianapolis Colts opted not to trade back as many expected. Instead, they selected Michael Pittman Jr., a 6’4″ 220 pound wide receiver from the University of Southern California. Pittman, whose father Michael Sr. played 11 years as a running back in the NFL, benefited from USC’s switch to an “air raid” offense his senior year. He put up over 100 catches, 1200 yards, and 10 touches in 2019. His deep speed is not on par with a T.Y. Hilton or a Parris Campbell, but his hands are as sure as anyone.
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Pittman ran a 4.52 second 40-yard dash at the combine in February. For most receivers, that would be a turn off. Because he is such a physical and sure-handed presence, though, Pittman can win without blazing speed. As the Colts bragged about in their social media, the former USC Trojan had only five drops on over 250 career targets. Philip Rivers has a long history of connecting with tall receivers with the Chargers, and Pittman is next in that long line.
Envisioning a Role
As many have discussed this offseason, the Colts need not only help at receiver but also a replacement for Eric Ebron. It may just be that Pittman is both. Frank Reich can move his new receiver around in formations, and he is more than willing to block in the run game. He also has value on special teams as a gunner, though he may not be asked to do that in the pros.
Honestly, there are very few. The Colts need defensive help, to be sure, and some defensive playmakers were on the board at 34. Alabama defensive backs Xavier McKinney and Trevon Diggs were available, as were edge rushers Yetur Gross-Matos and A.J. Epenesa. However, this team will sputter on offense if Hilton misses more time with injury. Now that Campbell has a year under his belt, Daurice Fountain is presumably healthy, and Pittman is in the fold, the receiving corps is stronger than it has been in years.
Pittman is a slam dunk, and he checks a big box on the Colts’ offseason needs list. There are still positions to be addressed, but for now, wide receiver has been taken care of. The Colts are back on the clock at pick 44.