Anytime you talk about adding weapons around Teddy Bridgewater, my ears perk up. That’s exactly what GM Rick Spielman accomplished by selecting TE MyCole Pruitt with the 143rd overall pick in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL draft.
Weight: 251 pounds
Arm Length: 33 1/2
Hands: 10 1/4
40-Yard Dash: 4.58
Bench Press: 17 reps of 225 pounds
Vertical Jump: 38.0
Broad Jump: 118.0
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.37
60 Yard Shuttle: 11.85
Pruitt was a top performer at the combine running the fastest 40-yard dash among tight ends, the best vertical jump, and ranked fourth in the broad jump. Along with his obvious athleticism, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Pruitt showed soft hands in the positional drills.
Pruitt’s a smaller-sized tight end prospect with great athleticism and physicality to his game. He is a natural hands catcher that can make the grab in tight coverage. Pruitt is a versatile tight end that can also be used as a featured H-back, slot receiver or lined-up as a wideout. Pruitt has great concentration skills and is a clutch pass-catcher on third downs who is not afraid to work the middle.
Pruitt plays with a running back’s physicality to his game. He fights for extra yardage, churns his legs, and consistently gets the extra yards needed to keep the chains moving. Pruitt has a good burst off the line, and is capable of attacking a safety down the seam. He has good start and stop acceleration, even though his hips are a bit tight. Pruitt is certainly athletically gifted, but his movement skills with pads on aren’t as smooth and explosive as his combine scores would suggest.
Though Pruitt is crafty in terms of finding holes in defenses and getting off the line of scrimmage in press coverage, he doesn’t excel in creating separating from coverage or running crisp routes. He will definitely need to improve as a route running at the next level. Pruitt was used primarily as a pass-catching weapon at Southern Illinois, so, improving his run blocking skills will be a top priority for the Vikings if Pruitt wants to be an every down contributor.
Pruitt, an Indiana native, also played basketball and didn’t start playing football until his freshman year at Kirkwood High School. Pruitt was a three-year starter in high school as a tight end and defensive end. When Pruitt graduated from Kirkwood, he wasn’t highly recruited, but chose Southern Illinois University because of its rich football tradition.
Pruitt had a productive college career at SIU, capped off by a stellar senior year. After catching between 43 and 49 balls in each of his first three seasons, Pruitt exploded for 81 catches, 861 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final year. Out of 44 games he started in college, Pruitt caught a pass in 43 of them.
The small-school level of competition is a knock, but he was always the focus of the opposing team’s game plan. Despite lousy quarterback play, Pruitt managed consistent production and also had good games against the Big Ten opponents. In a game against Purdue in 2014, he caught 10 balls for 136 yards. Against Illinois in 2013, Pruitt caught 5 reception for 83 yards and a touchdown.
2011 – 43 Rec, 562 Yds, 3 TDs
2012 – 49 Rec, 577 Yds, 4 TDs
2013 – 48 Rec, 601 Yds, 5 TDs
2014 – 81 Rec, 863 Yds, 13 TDs
• MVFC record holder in career receptions (211), receiving yards (2,601) and receiving touchdowns (25) among tight ends
• Named best tight end in Missouri Valley Football Conference history as part of the MVFC’s 30-year anniversary celebration
• Two-time consensus first-team All-American (2013, 2014)
• Three-year All-American (2012, 13, 14)
• Four-year All-Conference tight end
• Two-time CFPA FCS Tight End of the Year (2013, 14)
• SIU career record for receptions (221)
• SIU single-season record for receptions (81 in 2014)
• Ranks second in SIU history in career receiving yardage (2,601) and receiving touchdowns (25)
Pruitt is a versatile “new-age” pass catching TE that can be lined up all over the field to create mismatches in today’s move the ball through the air systems. Norv Turner will like his fearless attitude, effort, and competitiveness through the whistle when he has the ball. Pruitt has the speed to be just as effective as a down field threat as Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford. His yards after the catch ability on shorter routes is certainly an upgrade over our current group of tight ends. Pruitt’s ball skills and vision make him an ideal weapon for Teddy Bridgewater to use as a check down option in blitzing or hot read situations.
Outside of his tight end role, I really like the idea of Pruitt as an H-back, possibly even stealing snaps from Matt Asiata. Pruitt in the slot, creates a power mismatch for safeties and nickel backs that Turner will surely be tempted to exploit. If teams cover Pruitt with a linebacker, he has the speed and talent to go vertical.
With that said, if Pruitt wants to earn significant playing time, regardless of where he lines up, he will need to show an aptitude for blocking. Even Turner’s vertical game needs willing and able bodes to do some dirty work. He has long arms, good strength and a strong punch to be effective as a blocker. If Pruitt can prove he is a reliable and constant blocker, he will set himself apart from Jarius Wright and Stefon Diggs at the slot position. In the backfield, he could give Turner a more explosive check down target than Matt Asiata, and a more reliable pass catching option than Adrian Peterson and Jerick McKinnon.
Pruitt’s ability to earn playing time as a rookie, might all depend on how quickly he can learn multiple positions in Turner’s system, and how quickly he can earn the coaching staff’s conference as a blocker.
At the time of the pick I was a bit disappointed. However, after watching some tape, and seeing the natural easy at which he can catch the ball and produce yards after the catch, I’m now sold on the pick. I give Pruitt a solid B grade, and outside of Eric Kendricks and Trae Waynes, Pruitt is my dark-horse rookie who could make a major impact in 2015.
In the below video, you can see Pruitt’s versatility, reliable hands, power element, and some blocking skill… however, you can also see some lethargic effort when the play goes away from him. My guess is Zimmer will be able to clean some of that up quickly.