The Falcons have had a clear approach to the NFL draft — selecting the best player available. Since the regime has taken over, there have been a couple of controversial draft picks.
Most recently, Atlanta made Bijan Robinson the highest-drafted running back since the Giants selected Saquon Barkley 2nd overall in 2018. Given the current state of the position, it was a head scratcher, but not when you consider Arthur Smith’s run heavy offense combined with Robinson’s versatility. He’s better described as an offensive weapon.
In the regime’s first draft, they made Kyle Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in history, which has also been met with criticism. He had a down sophomore campaign, and Micah Parsons went several picks later and looks like arguably the best defender in football. Even with a redraft, the Falcons wouldn’t have landed Parsons, but they do land another pass catcher in The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner’s redraft.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Original pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
This feels like a toss-up. Atlanta might be totally fine with its original selection of Pitts, which eventually led to an intriguing pairing of Pitts and Drake London, but Chase is too good to pass up. His tool box is right there with former teammate LSU Justin Jefferson in terms of being as close to flawless as possible at the receiver position.
Where did Kyle Pitts fall, you might ask? Well, Baumgardner sees him sliding all the way out of the top 10, but still contends his athletic ability warrants a top-five selection.
11. New York Giants: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Original pick (by Chicago via trade): Fields
In terms of pure athletic ability, Pitts is still a top-five prospect in this class.
The Falcons drafted him at the absolute start of the Arthur Smith-Terry Fontenot era with a long-term plan in mind. Pitts’ numbers haven’t been overwhelming through two years, but the situation around him is still developing. Right now, much of his path seems tied to an unproven QB in Desmond Ridder.
Kyle Pitts posted 1,000+ yards as a rookie en route to a Pro Bowl selection while nearly breaking the league record for rookie receiving yards by a tight end, and that is somehow considered underwhelming to Baumgardner. Nobody denies his 2023 campaign was disappointing, but context matters.
The Falcons ran the ball more than any other club outside of the Bears, which means fewer opportunities for Pitts. Moreover, the Falcons’ 2021 4th overall pick led the entire league in off-target passes. 30% of the passes Marcus Mariota thrown to Pitts were deemed uncatchable, which is unfathomable for a guy that broke the NFL combine record for his wingspan.
Context matters; Kyle Pitts will be the best version of himself in 2023.