The Falcons went from one generational pass catcher to another when they traded away Julio Jones and drafted Kyle Pitts in the same offseason. Atlanta’s tight end sensation hauled in 68 receptions for 1,026 yards and a touchdown en route to the Pro Bowl — the first rookie to do so since Jeremy Shockey. He ranked seventh in receptions, third in receiving yards, and first in yards per catch. Everyone believes Pitts is the future at the position, including PFF.
What Pitts accomplished as a rookie receiver in 2021 was nothing short of remarkable. He turned in an 82.3 receiving grade for the season that ranked sixth among qualifying tight ends for 2021 and third among all rookies at the position in the PFF era. The 6-foot-6, 240–pound specimen also racked up 29 explosive receptions of 15-plus yards, the most by a rookie in the PFF era by 11. He didn’t get to that mark just from shredding linebackers and safeties, either. Going up against cornerbacks on the outside as a rookie, the former Florida Gator tallied a position-leading 14 receptions, 290 yards and six explosive receptions of 15-plus yards.
Pitts’ provides rare movement skills at his size to the Falcons’ offense. His blocking falls short of expectations, but his pass-catching chops more than make up for it. Pitts finishing as the sixth-most valuable tight end last season backs that up.
Pitts had an incredible first season in the league, breaking a bevy of records — passing Tony Gonzalez for the most single-season receiving yards in team history from a tight end, becoming the franchise’s all-time rookie receiving yards leader, and the first rookie tight end in 60 years to surpass 1,000 receiving yards. To make Falcons fans drool even more, reports coming out of camp suggest Pitts is 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.”
Pitts came in at No. 5 in ESPN’s poll that asked more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts, and players to rank the top 10 players at 11 different positions. He also came in at No. 6 on Madden 23’s tight end ratings. The Falcons have a superstar in Kyle Pitts, and this sort of praise is just the beginning; he’ll soon become one of the faces of the league.
Photographer: Shaun Brooks/Actionplus/Icon Sportswire