Matching Julio Jones’s production from 2020 wouldn’t be that difficult for Kyle Pitts. Jones caught 51 passes for 771 yards and three touchdowns a season ago, a final stat line that the fourth overall pick will surely eclipse. But, of course, Jones only played in nine games, so a better benchmark would be his 2019 numbers, his most recent full season — 99 receptions, 1394 yards, and six touchdowns. If Pitts were even to get close to that season, which was an average one in Jones’s book, it would be one of the best rookie season performances by any position.
However unlikely, Pitts is special and makes it interesting to see which rookie records are in danger if he were to match the production from one of the greatest receivers of all time. It’s possible because I see Pitts as the focal point in this new-look offense:
Pitts will be the focal point of Smith’s offense, even if Ridley is the team’s leading receiver because the former Florida Gator will draw more double-teams than his Alabama counterpart. Regardless of the alignment, Pitts will be draw double-teams against zone and man-to-man defenses. On the boundary, he’s much too strong and long for a cornerback but also too fast and agile for a linebacker or most safeties. With his hand in the dirt, it’ll be difficult for the defense to prevent a free release, enabling Pitts to be used in more ways than just traditional routes.
Falcons fans can expect a heavy dose of Pitts in this offense. It’ll depend on the situational matchups, but he’ll be attacking defenses at every alignment in the offense and running the entire route tree
Tennessee’s tight ends saw 28.6% of targets when Arthur Smith was offensive coordinator, which was the fourth-highest rate over those two years. I believe Calvin Ridley and Pitts will receive over 100 targets from Matt Ryan, which is completely possible as multiple teams had at least two players see more than 100 targets last season, including Kansas City (Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill), Detroit (TJ Hockenson and Marvin Jones), and Washington (Logan Thomas, Terry McLaurin, and J.D. McKissic).
At least he’ll have to receive trip-digit targets if he wants to sniff Julio’s final stat line from 2019. If Pitts were to come close, he’d likely break a few rookie tight end records along the way. Mike Ditka owns two — 1,076 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns — and Keith Jackson owns one — 88 receptions. If Pitts were to have a Julio-like impact, these records would have new owners by the year’s end. But, according to my own prediction of his final stat line, he wouldn’t break any — 110 targets, 79 receptions, 925 yards, and eight touchdowns.
Pitts has the ability to set this league on fire, but reaching the lofty standards of Julio Jones could take a few years in the league. In the meantime, those rookie tight-end records need to be put on watch this season.