With the 97th pick in the NFL draft, the compensatory pick gained by the departure of Philip Rivers, the LA Chargers surprised fans again in the third round by selecting Tre’ McKitty, the tight end out of Georgia.
If you are surprised that McKitty was selected in the third round, that is quite understandable. Most draft pundits had McKitty as a Day 3 prospect. However, McKitty has been a late riser in this draft, largely because of the way his college career progressed.
McKitty was originally a four-star recruit from the infamous IMG Academy in Florida. He chose to head to Florida State, where he was promised a role as a receiving tight end. However, after having little production in his first season (where he was understandably down the depth chart as a freshman), his coach, Jimbo Fischer, was fired in favor of Willie Taggart.
The transition limited McKitty’s receiving role a bit, but his talent allowed him to get a new role in Taggart’s scheme. He moved into the starting lineup in 2018, where he had 256 yards and 2 touchdowns on 26 receptions.
After another season with similar production, Taggart was fired, and McKitty opted to transfer to the University of Georgia where he could benefit from consistency and a larger role. Unfortunately, McKitty hurt his knee and required an arthroscopy, limiting his time on the field and ability to claim a large role. Thus, McKitty had few opportunities and was primarily used as a blocker.
However, at the Senior Bowl, Tre’ McKitty showed his potential as a pass catcher, where he was clearly the best tight end in Mobile. In the play below, McKitty shows that he has remarkably soft hands for a player that is thought of primarily as a blocker.
Mac Jones with a SEED over the middle pic.twitter.com/FKOwYbQhyB
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) January 27, 2021
Although McKitty shows potential as a receiver, that is clearly only potential at this point.
Tre’ McKitty’s solid in-line blocking ability will be a fantastic addition to the LA Chargers’ tight end room.
With Jared Cook, Donald Parham, and Stephen Anderson already in place, the LA Chargers needed a tight end with in-line blocking ability, and they now have it in McKitty. If fans don’t think it is important it is to have a blocker at tight end, they just need to look back to Stephen Anderson’s blocking on special teams to appreciate the importance of the role.
So, although McKitty is not ready as a receiver in the NFL now, he will have an immediate impact as a blocker and special teams player.
Furthermore, the Chargers got a player with the traits to develop into something more. With Frank Smith on staff, who helped develop Darren Waller into who he is now, the Chargers have the staff in place to get the most out of McKitty.
Although McKitty has fantastic potential for this point in the draft, he is primarily potential, and he was expected to go on Day 3. While the Josh Palmer pick was a slight reach, the Tre’ McKitty pick is a more obvious reach.
Furthermore, the Chargers missed out on some great prospects. Watching Quinn Meinerz go one pick later to the Denver Broncos was painful to watch.
Some would also point out that Brevin Jordan was thought by most to be a better prospect than McKitty, but I would argue that McKitty’s athletic edge gives him a far better chance of becoming an impactful all-around tight end at the NFL level.
The more you watch of McKitty, the more you can see that the Chargers selected a player with great traits even though the production was not there.
Missing on some talented players at other positions of need when McKitty may have been available later hurts the grade a bit here, but McKitty is exactly the type of tight end the LA Chargers needed.
It is okay to reach a bit for a player later in the draft if you like him enough that you think he is worth the selection, and you do not want him on any other team. It is clear that Tom Telesco and Brandon Staley made that calculation and thought McKitty was worth the pick. I personally agree with that calculation.
McKitty will bring immediate impact in 2021 as a blocker while bringing the potential to be a good all-around starting tight end in the future. At pick 97, that is a great get.