Why Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney will be matchup nightmares in the NFL

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The San Francisco 49ers had just completed the blockbuster deal to move up nine spots to No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL draft when Tim Brewster got a text from his brilliant tight end.

"Is it a QB or is it me?" Kyle Pitts asked Brewster, his position coach at the University of Florida, on March 26.

Traditional football wisdom deems this a silly question. San Francisco surely moved up for a franchise quarterback, and tight ends never go that high. Just 13 have gone in the top 10 since the NFL merger in 1970, with Riley Odoms the highest at fifth overall in 1972.

But Pitts isn't confined by the label on his draft bio. He's a multi-positional weapon, the best overall playmaker in the draft in the eyes of some teams, combining 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash with the length of an NBA small forward and route-running savvy. The latest joint mock draft with ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay has Pitts going to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 overall.

Couple Pitts' exotic talent with a modern game that celebrates hybrid models, and maybe his text sold his game a few spots short.

"Best tight end film I've ever evaluated -- by far," said a veteran NFL offensive coach of nearly 15 years. "Playing him like a traditional tight end is like leaving a Porsche in the garage. You've got to get him out and move him around."

While Pitts seems perfectly suited for today's versatile NFL, he's got a college teammate who embodies the same: Gators receiver Kadarius Toney, considered a late-first-round prospect.

Their abilities can morph a playbook into a joystick: Pitts, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound tight end who lines up out wide and wins like a precision receiver; Toney, the 6-foot-0, 193-pound slot receiver who can play tailback, return punts and never met a one-one-one matchup he couldn't shake.

The duo combined for 22 receiving touchdowns and 1,754 yards last season, their play each Saturday in The Swamp teeming with possibilities for NFL offensive coordinators.

Teams take the field on Sundays with a simple goal: Get playmakers the ball in space. Ones with a plan will move these chess pieces all over the board.

"We're just football players," Toney said. "Get us the ball however you can."