According to ESPN Draft Expert Todd McShay’s latest Mock Draft (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts are projected to select a pair of offensive weapons: USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. with the 34th overall pick and Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet with the 44th overall pick in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft:
34. Indianapolis Colts (from WSH)
Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
After trading out of Round 1, this pick is pretty important for the Colts. And with quarterback Philip Rivers on a one-year, go-for-it deal, GM Chris Ballard has to find the veteran a reliable pass-catcher. Pittman can flash in the vertical game, find pockets in coverage and adjust his body in motion to make the catch.
44. Indianapolis Colts
Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
Finally, a tight end comes off the board. The Colts already have Jack Doyle in the locker room, but they also lost Eric Ebron, and Philip Rivers loves finding his tight ends. Kmet can make the tough, contested catches.
McShay projects the Colts selecting Pittman Jr. ahead of Baylor’s Denzel Mims, TCU’s Jalen Reagor, and Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool at wideout—which seems surprising, especially in Mims’ case.
Regarding Pittman Jr., the 6’4”, 223 pound senior captain caught 101 receptions for 1,275 receiving yards (12.6 ypr. avg) and 11 touchdown receptions in 13 starts for the Trojans during 2019—earning 1st-Team All-Pac 12 honors and was named a 2nd-Team All-American.
He is the son of former Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman Sr.—who played 11 NFL seasons.
Pittman Jr. impressed during the Senior Bowl week and posted strong measurables at the NFL Combine—including a 4.52 forty time at his immense size, 36.5 inch vertical, and 121.0 inch broad jump.
He has the 9th best SPARQ rating (which measures overall athleticism) among wide receivers in his draft class with a percentage in the 85.7% NFL percentile.
While not necessarily an explosive athlete, Pittman is a big bodied possession wideout—with NFL bloodlines, who can win 50-50 jumpballs down the field by using his exceptional size, positioning, and ball skills to separate near the point of attack:
I would bet on Michael Pittman Jr. pic.twitter.com/z79kXj7Xk1— Todd McShay (@McShay13) February 7, 2020
For the Colts, he sounds like a rookie wide receiver, who can contribute immediately and start on the other side of their diminutive, yet incredibly dangerous deep threat T.Y. Hilton.
Colts new veteran starter Philip Rivers has historically loved throwing to big bodied wideouts downfield from Vincent Jackson to Mike Williams, and Pittman would just be the latest beneficiary in-line.
He may not be “the next Mike Evans”, but Pittman has the potential to be a high-end starting #2 wideout long-term as a physically imposing outside weapon for his next team.
Here’s what others are saying on the former Trojans’ standout—who projects to be a Day 2 pick either in the second or early third round:
Michael Pittman Jr. running a 4.52 is one of the best things from today. Loved his tape.— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) February 28, 2020
Michael Pittman Jr. My WR6— CrockTIME (@eric_crocker) February 28, 2020
Ran 4.52 and thought he played that fast enough for his size. 6’4” 220.. fluid mover.. stretched the field well.. played as big as his size. Big dog. That’s a win for him.
Y’all asked me about Mims. I’ll get back to y’all on that
Writing players always results in movement because you're forced to put all your notes in one place. And you realize which guys you really like.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 18, 2020
Chase Claypool and Michael Pittman won't be top WRs for me, but I love how both play. Would want either on my team.
Michael Pittman Jr. has ball skills teams can win with in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/B6lo23vjhq— PFF (@PFF) February 21, 2020
Michael Pittman, Jr., WR, USC:— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) March 15, 2020
• NFL DNA (+)
• Has a GPS on the ball in the air (++)
• Easy releases off of the LOS
• Higher elevator levels than others
• Contested catch monster
• Added branches to route tree in 2019pic.twitter.com/ZJ3Szk173s
#USC WR Michael Pittman Jr. recently accepted his Senior Bowl invitation.— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) November 7, 2019
His game against Utah (10 catches, 232 yards, and 1 TD) is a microcosm of what he is as a prospect. pic.twitter.com/ZJ3Szk173s
USC's Michael Pittman Jr. is an underrated separator for his size and tested extremely well for a bigger receiver at the Combine.— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) March 14, 2020
He's also as sure-handed as they come and possesses good ball sills/contested-catch ability — top-40 player in this class.pic.twitter.com/K6D018pE7A
Meanwhile, the 6’6”, 262 pound Cole Kmet is coming off a strong junior season for the Fighting Irish at tight end, catching 43 receptions for 515 receiving yards (12.0 ypr. avg.) and 6 touchdown receptions in 10 starts—having missed 2 games initially because of a broken collar bone.
Kmet is considered one of the best tight end prospects in what’s considered a relatively weak draft class at the position overall.
However, he measured well at the NFL Combine with a 4.70 forty time, 37.0 inch vertical, and 123.0 inch broad jump—which helped placed him in the 77.4% NFL percentile for his SPARQ rating (also 2nd best in his draft class at tight end).
Kmet is a really good athlete at the position, who has solid hands and can provide a reliable huge target over the middle of the field—who’s not afraid to mix it up after the catch.
As a two-sport athlete, he compares favorably to former Notre Dame tight end and longtime Minnesota Vikings pro Kyle Rudolph with his combination of size and athleticism.
While he’s a willing blocker, he needs to get stronger at his base and at the point of attack but is better in this regard than he’s credited for.
Of course, with former Pro Bowler Eric Ebron leaving in free agency, the Colts could use another tight end to pair with Pro Bowler Jack Doyle—as well as another big bodied weapon to help their offense down in the red zone.
Rivers has excelled throwing to his tight ends in the past (see: Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry), and the Colts offense under head coach Frank Reich has prominently featured two tight ends over the past few seasons.
The team could really use another receiving option as its TE2—although Mo Alie-Cox appears more than fine as an additional blocking tight end situationally.
Here’s what others are saying on Kmet—who projects to be a Day 2 pick and should fall no later than the early 3rd round—as one of the top tight ends taken:
Pretty much what I expected from Cole Kmet at the Combine. Got hops for days, but the stiffness he showed on tape came out in the agility drills.— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) March 1, 2020
Still probably the first TE drafted bc he looks the part in a weak class, but he won't be my TE1 for sure pic.twitter.com/Y1L09fjzNm
ND TE Cole Kmet is a really solid player. He’s comfortable working in middle of the field, strong hands & aggressive after the catch. Very dependable in run game too. Reminds me of Hunter Henry. https://t.co/dtbix1MnzL— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 7, 2020
If it weren’t for Cole Kmet, Brycen Hopkins would be TE1 in this class. Love his catch radius and how he moves.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2020
If you want to play it safe, take Cole Kmet out of Notre Dame. If you want the best, it's Mizzou's Albert Okwuegbunam. He has unbelievable upside, not a first-rounder, has risk, but if he pans out like I think he can, watch out. I have him as my top-rated tight end. https://t.co/5zCgYKtgm7— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 31, 2020
I know it's a long shot that Cole Kmet develops into a dynamic receiver but I think I'd be on board with him as a late 2nd-rd pick because it's basically a lock that he'll be a useful player as a blocker.— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) March 29, 2020
Also he just turned 21 and he's as big as Gronk and tested well in Indy. pic.twitter.com/nr8XDj3SEe
2. Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) December 28, 2019
Kmet might just be the best tight end in the 2020 class, if he decides to declare.
He's got great size and I think his best football is still ahead of him.
4 games into Cole Kmet.— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) January 30, 2020
-His catch radius
-Flashes of physicality at top of route
-Not many contested catch chances
Not a fan of:
-Poor route runner
-Very little nuance to his game overall