The Atlanta Falcons selected Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, making him the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history. Pitts is a 6’5, 245-pound athletic freak who ran an unofficial 4.44 40-yard dash at his pro day. Pitts has a wingspan of 83 3/8” and is in the 100th percentile among all tight ends since 1999. The University of Florida product was built in a lab. The NFL has never seen a player like Pitts. His combination of size, speed and strength is one of one, and it jumps off the screen whenever he is on the field.
In his rookie season, Pitts racked up 1,026 receiving yards, 68 receptions and a whopping 15.1 yards per catch. Pitts became the first rookie tight end to amass 1,000 receiving yards in NFL history. He flashed all the freakish abilities that NFL scouts and GMs were drooling over during the pre-draft process.
The tight end position is notorious for taking years to settle into. Kyle Pitts didn’t get that memo. He stepped in as a rookie and lit the field on fire. His prowess in the receiving game is where Pitts flashes his freakish ability, but one of the only knocks on him coming out was his slender frame and inability to block at a high level. Pitts dispelled those rumors rather quickly upon entering the league. Even though Pitts was used all over the formation, lining up on the inside as a true tight end and on the outside as an X receiver, he still flashed great blocking ability on his rookie tape.
After a record-breaking rookie season, those around the NFL believed that with a full year under his belt, Pitts would catapult himself into full-blown stardom in his sophomore season. The Atlanta Falcons had some serious roster turnover in the offseason, most notably allowing franchise legend Matt Ryan to seek a trade to a team of his liking and bringing in veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota to replace him. Ryan was a figure of consistency inside the Falcons building; losing a leader of that magnitude has the potential to hinder the development of a young pass catcher.
Pitts has had a rough go at finding chemistry with Mariota thus far in the 2022 season. Nine games into the season, Pitts has only managed to amass 285 receiving yards, 23 receptions, and two touchdowns. His role in the new Falcons offense has raised many questions from the local and national media. Pitts has been used primarily as a run blocker this season. The Falcons rushing attack has been the focal point of their offense. It feels like they have a Ferrari sitting in the garage waiting to be taken out for a joy ride.
“It’s not fantasy football. We’re just trying to win.” Head Coach Arthur Smith said. Pitts deserves partial blame when it comes to his lack of targets. He has struggled to create separation consistently this season, which is something he excelled at last year. The lack of routes he gets to run per game is a significant factor. Most players like to get into a rhythm. When you are asked to block for most snaps, getting your flow in the passing game can be difficult.
The Falcons are sitting at 4-5 on the season, which on paper doesn’t look extremely promising, but the NFC south is filled with underperforming teams. The Falcons are just one game back from first place in its division. If they want to capitalize on a rare year in which their divisional foes are vastly underperforming, they need to get Pitts more involved in the passing game. He can wreck games with his size, speed and strength. Arthur Smith needs to tap into the potential and let him wreak havoc on opposing secondaries. Scheming ways to get the ball into his hands with some room to maneuver will do wonders for a team struggling to accrue wins.