Kyle Pitts could be the first tight end to win Rookie of the Year since Mike Ditka in 1961 and the first Falcons player since Matt Ryan won the award in 2008. According to SportsBettingDime via DraftKings, Pitts has the fifth-best odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year set at +1100 behind Trevor Lawrence at +300, Trey Lance and Justin Fields at +500, and Zach Wilson at +1000. Ryan led the Falcons to an 11-5 record, throwing for over 3,400 yards and 16 touchdowns, winning the final three games of the season, and capturing the award over fellow rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. Pitts could have a similar effect on the Falcons in 2021.
For starters, two of the quarterbacks with better odds than Pitts might not even play a majority of the season this year. Lance will likely back up Jimmy Gorappolo for the entire 2021 campaign, while Fields will be hard-pressed to start over Andy Dalton in just one offseason of work under Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor. Not only is the quarterback position the most difficult to play in the NFL, but no candidate is also in a better position to succeed than Pitts.
If he were to start, Lance would have to learn Shanahan’s offense on the fly, which isn’t easy for a rookie trying to acclimate to life as a professional. Matt Ryan took two offseasons to learn Shanahan’s system; I feel safe in saying that Lance won’t outperform those expectations.
Pitts has two things in his favor that the other candidates don’t: no pressure and a supporting cast. Each quarterback candidate has immense pressure to improve their teams, and Pitts has a superior supporting cast. Matt Ryan, Mike Davis, Julio Jones, and Calvin Ridley might be the most explosive offense in the league, and Pitts won’t be relied upon nearly as much as the other rookies.
Arthur Smith revived the career of Delanie Walker, helped Jonnu Smith become a Pro Bowler, and will soon catapult Pitts into one of the best tight ends as a rookie. The odds are too good not to sprinkle at least a couple of paychecks on the former Florida Gator for OROTY.