Courtesy of University Athletic Association
BY RICK HURTADO
Pitts became the highest-drafted TE in NFL history, while Toney is the first Florida WR to be drafted in the first round since 2009
Former Gators tight end Kyle Pitts was selected fourth overall in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft Thursday night by the Atlanta Falcons, while wide receiver Kadarius Toney was drafted 20th overall by the New York Giants.
Pitts became the highest-drafted tight end in the common draft era.
“It means everything to be drafted in the top 10, first round, it’s something special,” Pitts said. “And to be the highest ever, that’s something that nobody can ever take from me.”
The 2020 Mackey Award recipient was also the first SEC tight end to be drafted in the top 10, and just the seventh to go in the first round since 1967. Nationally, Pitts became the 14th tight end to be selected in the first 10 picks and the second to go in the top 5.
“I been waiting on that call my whole life,” he said. “When I saw my phone ring, my heart dropped. Step one into the right direction. I can’t wait to get to Atlanta and start a new journey.”
A unanimous first-team All-American in 2020, Pitts quickly became the best tight end and one of the top pass catchers in the country last year with 43 receptions, 770 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
His 12 receiving touchdowns in 2020 were the second-highest total by a tight end in Southeastern Conference history. His 770 yards this year ties Kirk Kirkpatrick (1990) for second on Florida’s single-season record list for receiving yards by a tight end.
“If I had to bet on a hall of famer from this draft, it would be him,” ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said. “The most unique tight end prospect I have evaluated in 20 years. Matt Ryan just got the greatest gift of this draft… he knows exactly when to use his hands right at the end of routes to get that separation.”
Toney became the first Gators wide receiver to be selected in the first round since Percy Harvin was taken 22nd overall by the Minnesota Vikings in 2009 and the highest-drafted since Reidel Anthony was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 16th overall pick in 1996.
“He’s just a playmaker. The New York Giants needed to add a playmaker on offense,” ESPN analyst Booger McFarland said on the draft telecast. “It takes several people to take him down.”
It’s the first time the Gators have had two offensive skill-position players drafted in the top 20 since 1996, when receiver Ike Hilliard was also selected in the first round with the seventh overall pick to the Giants. Additionally, it’s the first time since 2016 (Keanu Neal and Vernon Hargreaves III) that multiple Gators were selected in the first round.
UF has now had at least one pick in every NFL Draft since 1952, the longest streak in the SEC.