“I think Michael Pittman is going to be a great player,” said Ballard. “I think you saw it. If he doesn’t have the compartment (leg) syndrome you know and miss the three games, and that was a serious injury. And he fought to come back, and it took a little time to get back.”
“But I think you saw him gain (confidence), I think you saw at Tennessee and in the playoff game versus Buffalo, he was outstanding.”
The 34th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Colts had a scary injury to start his career—already coming off a limited training camp and non-existent preseason. However, it was easy to see Pittman Jr. continue to get more comfortable as the season progressed—as he gained more playing time and invaluable reps within the Colts offense.
The rookie wideout finished with 40 receptions for 503 receiving yards (12.6 ypr. avg.) and a touchdown reception during 13 games (8 starts).
Perhaps most surprising, was Pittman Jr.’s ability to run after the catch—showing surprising speed and burst for a big bodied wideout that is deceptively fast at 6’4”, 223 pounds:
“Pittman’s going to do it with size and strength, and he’s a build up (runner), he’s faster than you think when he gets the ball in his hands,” Ballard added later on the show. “He’s really fast when he gets the ball in his hands.”
To his credit, via PFF, Pittman Jr. was one of the league’s leading rookies at yards after the catch this past season:
Most yards after the catch among rookie WRs in 2020:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 5, 2021
1. Justin Jefferson - 450
2. Chase Claypool - 342
3. Michael Pittman Jr. - 331
4. CeeDee Lamb - 312 pic.twitter.com/G8lsz8eDn6
When looking at yards after the catch per reception though, here’s how it breaks down among those top rookies in 2020:
- Pittman Jr.: 8.28 ypr. avg
- Claypool: 5.52 ypr. avg.
- Jefferson: 5.11 ypr. avg.
- Lamb: 4.22 ypr. avg.
With highlight plays like these below, it’s easy to see why:
Big couple games for THE ROOKIE PITTMAN. pic.twitter.com/FioiveTiVV— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) November 23, 2020
While we didn’t get to see Pittman featured as a jumpball downfield threat that a lot of Colts fans were expecting to see happen in a ‘Vincent Jackson-like’ receiving role with veteran starter Philip Rivers, he did show a lot of vision, toughness, physicality, and acceleration as a runner—reminiscent of his father, former NFL running back Michael Pittman Sr. with the football in his hands—looking to make a play and ‘mix it up’.
The Colts utilized him a lot on drags and crossing routes—which proved to be quite effective.
His blocking was also consistently superb on the perimeter:
Look at Michael Pittman Jr. just pancake Johnathan Abram here on the outside, who's known as a physical safety: https://t.co/e0uD5fuXPt— Luke Schultheis (@LuckAtLuke) December 13, 2020
Pittman Jr. is a well-rounded young wideout for the Colts, whose future appears to be very bright entering his 2nd season—perhaps great, if you happen to ask Indy’s GM these days.