The Falcons have a unicorn in Kyle Pitts. After making him the highest-picked tight end in league history, expectations were sky-high. He was easily one of the best non-quarterback prospects in the 2021 draft class, so from the very beginning, there was almost insurmountable pressure on him. However, the former fourth overall pick shined during his rookie season; Pitts is already one of the best tight ends in the league.
He hauled in 68 receptions for 1,026 yards, an average of 15.1 yards per catch, en route to a Pro Bowl. He ranked tied for seventh in receptions but was third in receiving yards, giving him the highest yards per reception average. To put that into perspective, Noah Fant recorded the same amount of receptions but totaled only 670 yards, a difference of over 350 yards.
Pitts also broke a bevy of franchise and league records. He became the first rookie tight end in 60 years to surpass 1,000 receiving yards and also became Atlanta’s all-time rookie receiving yards leader, a title previously held by Julio Jones for a decade. Pitts passed Tony Gonzalez for the most single-season receiving yards in team history from a tight end and was the first rookie tight end to make the Pro Bowl since Jeremy Shockey in 2002.
Pitts also finished the season 50 yards shy of Mike Ditka’s rookie receiving record for tight ends. Despite coming up short of Ditka’s record, Pitts was a sensational rookie by most metrics. He had the most contested catches of all tight ends, which isn’t surprising at all given his size and ball skills. Moreover, for all you football nerds, Pitts ranked FIRST among all WIDE RECEIVERS in yards per route run on the boundary.
Who was the best outside WR in the NFL last year? Technically it was Kyle Pitts
YPRR (Routes Out-Wide)
1 Kyle Pitts (2.95)
2 Deebo Samuel (2.86)
3 Justin Jefferson (2.78)
4 Davante Adams (2.56)
43 Travis Kelce (1.55)
53 Mike Gesicki (1.41)
Last/89 Demarcus Robinson (0.57)
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) May 19, 2022
The only issue with Pitts playing like this is the fact the Falcons will eventually have to pay him, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if he’s paid like a tight end. The highest-paid players at his positions are George Kittle ($15M AAV), Travis Kelce ($14.3M), Dallas Goedert ($14.25M), and Mark Andrews ($14M), which are all honestly excellent deals. I would have no problem with the Falcons fitting any of those bills.
Kelce is essentially a wideout, given how often he aligns on the boundary. And Kittle is as deadly with the ball in his hands as he is as a blocker; Kyle Shanahan basically has an extra offensive lineman who threatens defenses as a pass catcher. Whereas Andy Reid practically has an oversized receiver who is a mismatch regardless of who’s guarding him.
Pitts is right there with both of them. He’s as effective as any tight end in the league, and even some receivers. The issue lies in his pay structure. If Pitts’s agent were competent, he’d try to get his client paid as a wideout and not a tight end. He lines up on the boundary and in the slot at an unprecedented rate, making an unparalleled contract reasonable.
Receivers make a considerable amount more than tight ends. Tyreek Hills is making $30 million per year, Davante Adams is making $28 million, and the man who started it all, DeAndre Hopkins, is making $27.25 million per year. Hell, A.J. Brown is making $25 million a year. George Kittle, who is arguably the best player at his position, is making $10 million per year less than Brown. That’s absurd.
Obviously, it’d be ideal to pay Pitts $17-18 million per year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that number balloons to $20+ million with how the market has developed in recent years.