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Jalen Pitre: The Chronicles of the Never Burned

How many NFL safeties can say they never gave up a touchdown in college?

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NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Mississippi at Baylor Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

While Derek Stingley Jr., the #3 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft is getting most of the spotlight for the Houston Texans rookie class, the other defensive back joining the team had a far more impressive 2021 NCAA season.

Pitre spent his first three years at Baylor tagged as a linebacker before converting to safety in 2020. Over the next two seasons as a DB, he nailed 97 solo tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 4 interceptions for 76 yards, 9 passes defensed and 3 fumble recoveries.

Oh, and did we mention multiple pick sixes?

This kind of Swiss Army knife skillset should absolutely ball out in Houston head coach Lovie Smith’s system. While many think Smith’s defense is one-dimensional, as he recently stated, having versatile players opens up the playbook quite a bit.

The Texans defense has had some great safeties that are all gone now, such as Andre Hal, Daniel Manning, Tyrann Mathieu and the recently departed Justin Reid. Pitre has the potential to follow in those footsteps and then some. Kyle Hamilton got all the pre-draft hype for the safety group, however Pitre never gave up a touchdown in college and his 40 time was .12 seconds faster than Hamilton’s at the combine. This isn’t to say Pitre is the better player, but the gap between him and the #1 pre-draft valued safety might not be as large as some make it out to be...

Pitre seemed to initially fly under the radar, but came on strong later in the pre-draft process. He eventually landed on the ProFootballFocus “Five players who could be surprising first-round selections” list.

PFF

Pitre is a well-rounded defensive back with elite short-area quickness who played the “Star” role in Dave Aranda’s Baylor defense. He was one of the biggest risers at the Senior Bowland put up PFF grades above 75.0 as a run defender, coverage defender and pass-rusher in each of the past two seasons. It’s not difficult to see NFL teams valuing his skill set in a hybrid nickel/safety/SAM linebacker role that gives defensive coordinators different solutions for different personnel groupings.

Most run stops by an FBS defensive back in 2021

Player School Run Stops

Jalen Pitre Baylor 34

Matthew Salopek Miami (OH) 34

Khoury Bethley Hawaii 29

The biggest concern when projecting Pitre to the NFL is that he’s undersized as a true safety, but his ability to track players in space and play with force should help alleviate those concerns.

As stated so many times before, it’s far too early to know how any of these players’ careers will turn out. But, Pitre shows the signs you want to see in someone who develops into a Pro Bowl level player with a very successful career.

Jalen Pitre

[My play is] ...instinctual, aggressive...

Through all that, it’s also pretty cool to hear a story of an H-Town native starring at Baylor, then coming back home to launch his NFL career in Space City.