Falcons: Kyle Pitts ranks among NFL elites in latest ESPN poll

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ESPN continued their poll of more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts, and players to rank the top 10 players at 11 different positions. Most recently, the tight end position was featured, and Kyle Pitts came in at No. 5; here’s what Jeremy Fowler had to say:

Highest ranking: 3 | Lowest ranking: 10
Age: 21 | Last year’s ranking: Unranked (rookie)

Last year’s voters telegraphed Pitts as a top-five tight end after his rookie year, and he fulfilled that promise with a 1,026-yard season in Atlanta, making him the first rookie tight end since Mike Ditka to hit that mark.

“He’ll be in that Waller and Kelce class after next year,” an NFL coordinator said. “He doesn’t even know what he’s doing yet — wait until he figures it out.”

What needs to be figured out is the nuance of the position, including blocking. It has never been Pitts’ calling card, though he has improved in that area since college. But stretching the field is no problem for the 2021 fourth overall pick. Pitts led the position in air yards per target (10.8) and yards before first contact per catch (13.1).

Pitts had only one touchdown catch, though, and his 61.8% catch rate was 22nd among tight ends.

Full rankings:

  1. George Kittle
  2. Travis Kelce
  3. Darren Waller
  4. Mark Andrews
  5. Kyle Pitts
  6. Dallas Goedert
  7. TJ Hockenson
  8. Dalton Shultz
  9. Dawson Knox
  10. Hunter Henry

Pitts hauled in 68 receptions for 1,026 yards, an average of 15.1 yards per catch, en route to the Pro Bowl last year — the first rookie tight end since Jeremy Shockey. He ranked among the league’s best at his position in nearly every stat — tied for seventh in receptions but was third in receiving yards, giving him the highest yards per reception average. For perspective, Noah Fant recorded the same amount of receptions but totaled only 670 yards, which is a difference of over 350 yards.

Pitts also broke a bevy of franchise and league records — passed Tony Gonzalez for the most single-season receiving yards in team history from a tight end, the first rookie tight end in 60 years to surpass 1,000 receiving yards, and became Atlanta’s all-time rookie receiving yards leader, a title previously held by Julio Jones for a decade.

Pitts only recorded one touchdown on American soil during his first year in the league, and it was in the Pro Bowl. His only regular-season touchdown came in a matchup against the Jets across the pond. However, reports coming out of camp suggest he’s just scratching the surface.

The people inside the building know this better than anyone. Arthur Smith, for one, will attest to the incredible ceiling the young man out of Florida possesses. “With all these rookies, everything’s new to them. New environment, new team, new staff and new terminology,” Smith said. “As you’ve seen with Kyle, as he progressed through last season – I’ve said this many times – he’s just scratching the surface. You see a different player and mindset.”

Once Pitts gets his bearings at the professional level, he’ll be the best at his position for the next decade.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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