Falcons Rookie Review: Kyle Pitts

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This is the first installment of a series reviewing Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith’s first draft class in Atlanta, which included a total of nine players. We’ll go chronologically through these draft picks in the order they were selected; up first is the highest-picked tight end in league history.

Kyle Pitts was easily the best non-quarterback prospect of the 2021 NFL Draft, so from the very beginning, there was almost insurmountable pressure put on the fourth overall pick out of Florida. Several media pundits declared Pitts the most likely to end his career in Canton with a gold jacket draped over his shoulders. “Sky-high” would be an understatement to describe the expectations surrounding Pitts as he entered the league. In my view, he’s at the very least met those lofty projections after his rookie year. Pitts hauled in 68 receptions for 1,026 yards, an average of 15.1 yards per reception, and eclipsed a bevy of franchise records this season.

He became the first rookie tight end in 60 years to surpass 1,000 receiving yards; he’s also Atlanta’s all-time rookie receiving yards leader, a title previously held by Julio Jones for a decade. Pitts also passed Tony Gonzalez for the most single-season receiving yards in team history from a tight end and was rewarded with a spot in the Pro Bowl — the first rookie tight end to make the Pro Bowl since Jeremy Shockey in 2002. Kyle also finished the season just short of Mike Ditka’s rookie receiving record for tight ends, which Ditka set in 1961 after totaling 1,076 yards. Despite coming up short of Ditka’s record, Pitts was a sensational rookie by most metrics.

There isn’t much Pitts can’t do on a football field; he’s a physical phenom. As he gains experience and is able to recognize coverages more quickly, Pitts will be unstoppable. His one touchdown this year was a letdown after he terrorized collegiate defenses in the red zone as a Gator, but I believe when all is said and done, this season’s low touchdown total will certainly be an anomaly for Pitts.

Without any significant receiving threats alongside him this season, Pitts faced defenses’ best cover guys with more combo/bracket coverage than single coverage. As he and Matt Ryan build a stronger connection, Pitts will be a headache for every defensive coordinator in the league. Arthur Smith knows exactly how special he is, describing Pitts as “just scratching the surface” at one point. It will be fascinating to follow this sensational rookie’s career.



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