USC football in the NFL: Can Michael Pittman lead rookies in receptions?

USC football alum Michael Pittman. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
USC football alum Michael Pittman. (Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

USC football alum Michael Pittman could be the most productive rookie WR in the NFL in 2020.

If Michael Pittman has his way, the rookie USC football alum will lead the 2020 NFL draft class in receiving this year.

Can he do it?

With a veteran quarterback tossing him the ball, it’s possible. But it won’t be easy.

Michael Pittman needs to be more than WR3 to lead rookies in receiving.

Last week, Austin Gale of Pro Football Focus put his support behind Pittman as his pick for the most productive rookie wide receiver in 2020.

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Given Pittman’s college stats and clear talent, it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise if he did just that.

In 2019, A.J. Brown led rookie receivers with 1,015 yards for the Titans. Since Pittman will be competing with the likes of Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Jalen Reagor, Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk and Tee Higgins, who were all drafted ahead of him, he’ll have to aim for the 1,000-yard mark as well.

Last year, neither Zach Pascal nor T.Y. Hilton, the Colts’ leading receivers, managed to tally 1,000 yards. Then again, it was a very different offense for Indianapolis last year with Jacoby Brissett at the helm and Hilton limited.

Now, the Colts have Phillip Rivers running the show. Last year, Rivers produced two 1,000-yard receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. The last time the quarterback didn’t hook up with a receiver for 1,000 yards or more was in 2015.

So it’s very possible Indianapolis’ passing attack will feature a 1,000-yard receiver or two. The question is whether Pittman will get the targets to feature in that category.

Hilton is expected to lead the team in receptions assuming injuries don’t limit his production again in 2019.

Pittman is in line to win a starting job alongside Hilton, but he’ll have to give Rivers plenty of reasons to throw his way over Parris Campbell, the Colts’ second-round draft pick from 2019. Campbell is coming off an injury-plagued rookie campaign but has the speed to quickly raise his receiving profile from the slot.

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For his part, Pittman has shown flashes at training camp but has struggled with drops. Sure hands were one of his assets at USC, so it may be a matter of shaking off the rookie jitters early and making his mark.

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