The Indianapolis Colts have been in need of a big-body playmaking wide receiver since Reggie Wayne retired in 2014. The team had a deep threat in T.Y. Hilton for a while. However, they needed a big wide receiver that would be a threat in the red zone, especially in jump ball situations.
The Colts selected Michael Pittman Jr. with the 34th overall pick back in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft to address this need. Looking at the statistical output of his rookie year, it wasn’t a great season. However, Pittman ended his first season strong and seemingly figured out how to succeed at the NFL level. Each year after has seen him improve. Which is just one of the reasons why the Colts should extend Pittman.
Michael Pittman Jr. is getting better at catching passes
Each season Pittman has been with the Colts, his ability to catch passes has improved. His rookie season saw him catch 40 passes. In his second season, he more than doubled that number with 88 catches. Currently, this season he’s at 90, and with two games left, there is a possibility he reaches 100 catches.
It’s easy to look at the volume of targets and say that is the reason why his number of catches has increased. And it’s true, but also his catch percentage has also increased. In his rookie season, he caught 65.6% of passes. The following season, he improved to 68.2%, and this year he’s at 70.3%. So while the volume has increased, so has his ability to catch more passes.
Adjusting to the NFL competition level
While Pittman’s ability to catch passes has gotten better, it also means his drops have decreased. His rookie season saw him drop only 1.6% of his passes. His second season saw him drop nearly 5% of his passes (4.7%). However, this season that number has gotten under 4% (3.9%).
Not only has he gotten better at catching passes, but he’s gotten stronger and adapted to the NFL game. This is evidenced by his ability to break tackles. His first two seasons saw him only break two. Meanwhile, this season he’s doubled that amount. And this is a good thing considering this season, his average depth of target is at a career low.
Being available to play games is the best ability
The best ability any player can have is availability. Having talent is great but if the player spends the majority of his time on the bench or on the injured list, it doesn’t matter. Pittman played in 13 games during his rookie season. He played in all 17 games last season and has played in all 15 games this season, with two remaining.
After last season saw him catch 88 passes for 1,082 yards and six touchdowns, there were high expectations for Pittman. This season has been underwhelming, but Pittman is still showing he can be an NFL receiver.
Questions are being asked about what the Colts will do with their top receiver. The team has spent a lot of money on its offensive line and current GM Chris Ballard had been reluctant to add any additional wide receiver help through trades. And there was some concern that the team might not want to extend Pittman. But seeing that he is vital to the Colts’ passing offense, it only makes sense that the team extends his contract.