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Gators’ Kyle Pitts could set new NFL draft mark for tight ends

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Everyone wants to be a quarterback.

Everyone but Kyle Pitts.

The way Pitts tells it is he scoffed so strongly at the idea of playing quarterback that he transferred from one Philadelphia-area high school to another as a junior for the opportunity to play tight end. It’s about the most unglamorous position switch imaginable … for everyone but Pitts, who enters the NFL draft, after three years at Florida, as maybe the best tight end prospect of all-time.

“There is no reason why this kid can’t be the best tight end to ever play the game,” Gators assistant head coach Tim Brewster told The Post. “You speak it into existence. We’ve talked about it. He’s got that type of ability. And, more importantly, he has the mindset to match his ability.”

Other than the quarterbacks, Pitts is the key domino that will determine how the first 11 picks of this year’s draft will fall. He is rated No. 3 overall by NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah and could be a more enticing game-breaker than one, two or all three of the elite receivers in the 2021 class: Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, and LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase.

Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts
AP

A tight end hasn’t been a top-five pick since 1972, but ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s mock-draft has Pitts going to the Jets at No. 4 after a trade back from No. 2. If the Dolphins let him slip past No. 3, that is.

“After Trevor Lawrence, it’s Kyle Pitts,” an AFC scout said. “If there is a tight end that needed to get taken in the top five, it would be this guy. I’ve never seen anything like him. At any point in time, he’s your best receiver and your best tight end.”

Pitts also might go to his hometown Eagles at No. 6. He and his Archbishop Wood High School teammates were honored as state champions on the Lincoln Financial Field sideline on Jan. 21, 2018, before the NFC Championship game.

“He would get really hyped after a big play, but he was one of the most humble guys I’ve ever played with,” said Pitts’ high school quarterback, Jack Colyar, who is now at Duke. “He always set a great example in practice. He wanted all the guys to give their best effort. Every single play was important to him. He never even mentioned the NFL.”

Or Pitts could go to the Panthers at No. 8, to join head coach Matt Rhule and many of the same assistants who were at Temple when that school offered him his first scholarship after one camp playing tight end. Or he could go to the tight end-needy Cowboys at No. 10. But no one has him going later than at No. 11 to the offense-starved Giants.

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Pitts won’t turn 21 until Oct. 6, around Week 5 of his rookie season. Last season at Florida, he averaged 17.9 yards on 43 receptions with 12 touchdowns and zero drops on 66 targets over eight games.

“The great thing is he’s going into the league without a lot of wear and tear on his body. This guy is a Lamborghini,” Brewster said. “I think I’ve heard from all 32 teams about Kyle. All I’ve said is, ‘If you have an opportunity to get this guy, he’s generational.’ ”

In high school, Pitts played both sides of the ball — as a hybrid tight end/slot receiver and a defensive end. He caught touchdowns in back-to-back state championship wins and, more impressively, forced three turnovers in one and body-slam tackled a running back in the other. That ball-carrier was fellow projected first-round pick Micah Parsons, now a Penn State linebacker.

Kyle Pitts stiff arms Georgia's Lewis Cine during after a reception during Florida's 44-28 victory last season.
Kyle Pitts stiff arms Georgia’s Lewis Cine during after a reception during Florida’s 44-28 victory last season.
AP

“He knew what he wanted — to play tight end and catch the ball. He put everything he had into that and became a really good one,” coach Steve Devlin said. “Right away, you could tell there was something special. He took to coaching. He was focused. He really used his body well and had such strong hands. If the ball was up in the air, he was coming down with it.”

There’s more to playing tight end, however.

Devlin said Pitts immediately was willing to do the kind of dirty work for running backs that doesn’t help recruits get five-star rankings. In the NFL, “willing blocker” is code for effort without execution.

But something changed when Brewster, a former NFL tight ends coach, joined Florida’s staff after Pitts’ sophomore season and the two started watching tape of all the best, especially the 49ers’ George Kittle. First steps, hand fits and helmet placement were emphasized.

“Kyle was not a very good blocker in the run game as a second-year player,” Brewster said. “I was thrilled with how he embraced me taking him to another level from a physicality standpoint.

“[Willing] is not good enough. You don’t want to be a situational pass-catcher in the NFL, where they have a bigger body and tougher guy on the line of scrimmage on first and second downs. He’s by no means a dominant post-up blocker yet, but he’s an extremely competitive blocker and he understands the fundamentals.”

Odds are high Pitts will wind up either in New York or on a division rival of the Jets or Giants. Colyar has been monitoring mock drafts hoping to see Pitts with his beloved Eagles. Devlin’s friends have taken it a step further.

“Somebody sent me a picture this week with him in an Eagles uniform,” Devlin said.

Get in line. There’s plenty of competition.

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Bulls’ Zach LaVine called cops on ‘obsessed’ fan at his home

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Zach LaVine had an unwanted visitor.

The Chicago Bulls star had to call the police after an “allegedly obsessed” woman showed up to his Chicago home and refused to leave on Thursday night, according to TMZ. 

The woman reportedly traveled from out of state, demanding to speak with the first-time All-Star, who was home at the time.

Police took her a local hospital for mental evaluation, and she has not been formally arrested or charged with a crime.

LaVine, 25, wrapped up first-half action with the Bulls on Wednesday and was drafted to Kevin Durant’s All-Star side for Sunday’s festivities in Atlanta.

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Blake Griffin a free agent after Pistons buyout

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Blake Griffin will be free to sign with the Nets or another interested NBA team after agreeing to a contract buyout with the Detroit Pistons.

The six-time All-Star forward “has interest from most of the NBA’s top playoff contenders and is expected to make a decision on his next team after conversations with prospective teams,” ESPN reported.

The Nets, Lakers, Heat, Warriors and Clippers – his former team — are among those that have expressed interest, according to the New York Times. ESPN.com added that the Blazers are interested

The 31-year-old Griffin hasn’t played since Feb. 12 while the Pistons attempted to trade him before the March 25 deadline, but they found no takers due to the remainder of his $36.6 million salary for this season and the $39 million he’s owed for 2021-22.

Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
Blake Griffin was released by the Pistons on March 5, 2021
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Griffin is averaging a career-low 12.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 20 games this season. He was dealt by the Clippers to Detroit in 2018, during the first season of a five-year extension worth $171 million.



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Broncos send a pretty strong warning to Drew Lock

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Drew Lock is no lock to remain the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback in 2021.

General manager George Paton and coach Vic Fangio both said Thursday that the team expects to bring in competition for Lock, possibly with the ninth pick in the NFL Draft.

“Obviously we’re always looking to bring in players at all positions that can raise the level of competition, and the quarterback is no different in that regard,” Fangio said, according to the team’s website.

“Until we get or until Drew proves to be the next great quarterback, like the ones that the Denver franchise has been used to in years past or certain teams around the league … are used to, we’re going to always try and bring in competition. But I have confidence that Drew can continue to improve.”

Lock made 13 starts in 2020 and tied with Carson Wentz for the league lead with 15 interceptions. He finished 32nd in the league among qualifying quarterbacks with a 75.4 passer rating, ahead of only Dwayne Haskins, Wentz and Sam Darnold.

Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
Drew Lock faces the Patriots on October 18, 2020.
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“Very talented, was inconsistent at times, has a lot to work on,” Paton said Thursday. “But I’ve spoken with Drew, I see him every day. He’s here early. He’s working. He really wants to be great. And we’re always going to try to bring in competition at every position, and quarterback as well. But I like the track that Drew’s on.”

Lock, the Broncos’ second-round pick in 2019 out of Missouri, had started five games as a rookie, winning four of them. Denver went 4-9 with him as the starter last season.

“I’m confident that Drew’s going to continue to improve,” Fangio said. “Drew’s had a great offseason up to this point. There’s not a lot you can do, but he’s working hard on his own, coming over here and getting workouts, and I know he’s doing a lot at home by himself, watching video by himself. He’s got a good setup over there. And he’s doing anything and everything he can to improve, even in February and now in March.”

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