The Tennessee Titans drafted former Louisville wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Titans absolutely needed to come out of this draft with at least one pass catcher. General manager Jon Robinson decided that Fitzpatrick was his guy. Robinson traded away several picks in order to move up and select Fitzpatrick. There’s no denying that Robinson and the Titans are incredibly high on Fitzpatrick as a player.
Fitzpatrick first met with the Titans at the Senior Bowl back in January. Fitzpatrick left his mark in the Senior Bowl game by totaling an impressive 90 yards on six catches. He would go on to meet with the Titans several times via Zoom in the coming weeks. Fitzpatrick then had a good showing at his pro day. The Titans were on hand to watch him and liked what they saw. He measured in at 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds, which is a great time for his size.
There’s no denying that as the depth chart currently stands, Fitzpatrick has a legitimate chance to make an impact as a rookie. Outside of A.J. Brown, snaps are up for grabs in an offense that’s been incredibly efficient at putting up points over the past few years. Fitzpatrick will battle for an important role with the likes of Josh Reynolds, Cameron Batson and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.
Rookies rarely make an immediate impact in today’s NFL, but Fitzpatrick has the pedigree and skill set to get on the field right away. Fitzpatrick enters the league after being productive for four straight seasons at Louisville (despite some poor QB play). Fitzpatrick’s route running ability and ball skills are advanced enough to help the Titans right away in 2021.
Fitzpatrick recently spoke exclusively with Broadway Sports about how he formed a relationship with Tennessee throughout the pre-draft process, his goals for his rookie season, what kind of player he is, and which of his new teammates he can’t wait to meet in person (you’ll never guess who).
JM: What was draft weekend like for you?
DZ: It was awesome. It was a dream come true. It was the best experience of my life up until now. I was so excited to hear my name called. My whole family supported me. Everybody had my back throughout the weekend.
JM: I want to talk about how the connection with Tennessee came about. We know that you met with the Titans at the Senior Bowl. That was probably the first time you spoke with them. What was that meeting like, and how many times were you in contact with the team afterwards?
DZ: That meeting at the Senior Bowl went well. I could tell that they liked me a lot. I could tell that I would go on to have more meetings with them after the Senior Bowl and I was right about that. We had a bunch of Zoom meetings throughout the pre-draft process. I really enjoyed speaking with them. It was awesome. I met with receivers coach Rob Moore and offensive coordinator Todd Downing. They liked what they saw at the Senior Bowl. They put up a couple of their plays on the screen during our Zoom meetings and asked me to remember them. They wanted to see how I could learn their playbook. I think I nailed that part of it. They liked what they saw and heard.
JM: That’s terrific. They showed a ton of interest in you the entire way. Going back to the Senior Bowl, and you may agree with this assessment, your in-game performance was probably a bit better than your overall week of practice was. Tell me a little about that. You really showed up in the game.
DZ: I definitely agree with that. A couple of players went down with an injury during the game and I’ve always been the type of player that answers the bell when my number gets called. I like to perform and execute when I get the chance to do so. I feel like I had a great overall week of practice. To be able to have that translate over to the game, it was big for me. I played fast. I was comfortable with the play calling. I was able to recognize things on the fly. I had an awesome time out there.
JM: Going back to your time at Louisville, you were able to contribute nearly right away. That’s one of the things that really stands out to me when analyzing your time there. You put up 699 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman after a redshirt season. That’s somewhat unheard of nowadays. What was it about your skill set or mentality that allowed you to have that success at such a young age?
DZ: I worked hard during that redshirt year. I got bigger, stronger and faster. I learned the playbook. I used that time wisely. I was able to play faster. My teammates trusted me during that freshman season. They gave me confidence. It was a great feeling. I trusted my teammates. We put it all together. The things I was accomplishing as a young guy on the practice field translated over on game day. We were executing. I had a great quarterback in Lamar Jackson. He had a great year throwing the ball. That was definitely a big factor. To be able to execute like that as a young guy was an awesome feeling.
JM: All wide receivers love to catch passes, but few of them genuinely enjoy blocking in the run game. You look like you enjoy getting physical with defensive backs as a blocker. Is that something you take pride in?
DZ: Oh yeah, I definitely do. My dad and I actually spoke about this just two days ago (laughs). He was telling me stories about when I first learned to block. He reminded me about something so cool. We talked about my first year ever playing football. I was six years old. I wanted to be a running back so badly but I was taller than everybody else (laughs). Because I was so tall, they had me playing tight end. My dad said that you can’t get the ball, you can’t score touchdowns at the skill position if you don’t block for your teammates. That’s how I’ve always approached it. He pounded that into me mentally at such a young age that I didn’t even realize it, but it almost became a part of me. I love to block. I’ve always loved it.
JM: That’s a great story. It stuck with you and it really shows on film. Your pro coaches and teammates are going to love that about you. You’ll be blocking for a pretty good running back in Derrick Henry.
DZ: I’m definitely excited to get out there and block for a guy like him. There’s a reason they call him The King (laughs). I’m gonna go out there and help create some lanes for him to run through. I’m gonna give him some third level blocks that help spring him in the open field. If I can get my blocking assignment right, I know that he’ll do the rest.
JM: That’s the right way to approach it. Is there a receiver or two that you enjoy studying and try to borrow things from? I’m talking about things like releases and footwork.
DZ: Growing up, I loved Dez Bryant all throughout middle school and high school. I always tried to mimic my game after his. It was a whole process for me. Davante Adams was my favorite receiver once I reached the college ranks. It stayed that way the entire time I was at Louisville. I love studying Adams. I love everything that he does. He’s so physical after the catch. He’s the ultimate competitor at the point of attack. I love his releases and how smooth his footwork is. He has quick feet off the line. He’s hesitation is terrific. I love studying him closely. I try to copy everything he does.
JM: He’s a great player to study and learn from. You’re a physical and technical route runner. You track the ball well in the air. How did you develop those aspects of your game?
DZ: I had the right coaches around me from a young age. That followed me to high school and so on. I arguably had the best wide receivers coach in the history of college football in coach Gunter Brewer. He helped me out. He identified the things I needed to work on. We had more conversations than I could tell you about. I put in the work before and after practice. It obviously paid off for me.
JM: Absolutely it did. Do you have a favorite route to run?
DZ: I don’t have a favorite route to run. I rather answer that question by saying that I like to run every single route. I don’t want to be penciled in as just a deep threat or as some sort of possession receiver. I rather say that there’s not a route out there that I can’t run. That’s how I spend my time in the offseason. I practice running routes. I work on every single route in the route tree. I try to perfect that area of my game.
JM: That’s a nice way to approach route running. You were born in Michigan, but played your college football in Louisville, which is of course close to your new home, Nashville. Have you been to Nashville, and what are you most excited about as you get ready to move here?
DZ: It’s actually pretty funny. I’ve played in Nashville twice. I played in a bowl game out here. I ended up getting sick after the first quarter. In 2019, we played against Western Kentucky at Nissan Stadium. That was our third game of the season. I played in that stadium. Little did I know I would end up here (laughs). It’s funny how the world works.
JM: We know that Ryan Tannehill reached out to you after the draft. That’s awesome. You must be excited to catch passes from him. He’s had quite the career resurgence in Tennessee.
DZ: I’m most definitely excited to play with Tannehill. I don’t wanna say that I was starstruck, but I was thinking wow, this is my reality now. Tannehill is texting me and what not. He told me that he was happy that I was on board and what not. It was crazy (laughs). It was a wild weekend for me. It’s a dream come true. I’m still waiting for somebody to pinch me and tell me that I’m dreaming.
JM: We’re so happy for you. Besides Tannehill, because we just touched on him, is there a teammate that you can’t wait to practice against or learn from?
DZ: I can’t wait to get out there and learn a little bit from A.J. Brown. He’s done some amazing things at such a young age. I’m sure he’s going to get annoyed with me, but I’m going to ask him every single question I can think of (laughs). I need to know how he’s been so successful at a young age. What did he do in order to make the transition from college to the league look so easy? I need to know. How did he go about learning the playbook? Did he take notes or does he prefer walk-throughs? I need answers (laughs). I’m gonna pick his brain about study habits. I can’t wait to learn from him. I’m ready to get to work.
JM: He’s a great player to learn from. What are your goals and aspirations for your rookie season?
DZ: I just want to make a contribution on the field. I wanna be able to catch balls and help my team win football games. At the end of the day, whatever position or role they have for me, I’m going to work 100% at it. I’m going to pour all of my effort into whatever it is the coaching staff needs from me. I’m just excited to be a part of this organization.
JM: That’s the right attitude. I’ve really appreciated your time today. This has been great. This city and fan base is going to love you. In closing, what kind of receiver are the Titans getting in Dez Fitzpatrick?
DZ: When they picked me, they got the best and most complete receiver in this draft. I really believe that. I’ve been saying that. I play the game with a ton of confidence. I’m a complete receiver that loves to run routes, catch footballs and block for my teammates. I’m going to be a great teammate both on and off the field. I’m going to work hard at practice. One thing my dad always said to me since I was little is that effort is free. It doesn’t cost anything. I really live by that. Everything I do, I do it with all my effort.