Falcons Rookie Tight End Kyle Pitts Is Quietly Inching Closer to Mike Ditka’s Elusive Place in the Record Books

The Atlanta Falcons are 7-8 and a long shot at making the NFL playoffs. Even if they miss the postseason, Arthur Smith and company know they’ll have something special to work with heading into 2022. Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts has been flying under the radar. However, he still has the perfect opportunity to make history at the expense of Hall of Famer Mike Ditka.

Kyle Pitts is closing in on Mike Ditka’s rookie record

Falcons TE Kyle Pitts looks on during game against the Saints; Bears legend Mike Ditka attends a game against the Falcons
Kyle Pitts of the Atlanta Falcons reacts against the New Orleans Saints | Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images; Former Chicago Bears player and coach Mike Ditka looks on during an NFL game | Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Kyle Pitts has become an integral piece of the Atlanta Falcons’ offense. He’s especially stepped up with wide receiver Calvin Ridley missing most of the 2021 season.

With two games left in the regular season, the Florida product will have a chance to cement his rookie season with a record-breaking performance.

Legendary Chicago Bears player and head coach Mike Ditka still holds the NFL record for the most receiving yards in a single season by a rookie (1,076).

Pitts has recorded 64 receptions for 949 yards. He needs just 128 yards to break the record. Atlanta will finish up the 2021 season against the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints in Weeks 17 and 18, respectively. The rookie averages 63.3 yards per game, so accomplishing the feat is a strong possibility.

Pitts would be just the second tight end in NFL history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.

“I would have never thought of 1,000 yards,” Pitts told The Athletic. “That’s a lot of yards. Always striving to be the best, but I would have thought 1,000 would be a little tough.”

The Falcons passed over other needs to draft the Florida TE

The Atlanta Falcons’ front office pretty much had its pick of the litter during the 2021 NFL Draft. Atlanta traded up into the No. 4 spot and ultimately selected Kyle Pitts.

By drafting Pitts, it appeared the Falcons wanted to go with the best player available.

Some people wondered if the front office would draft a young quarterback to eventually replace 36-year-old Matt Ryan. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance went in the first three picks. Justin Fields and Mac Jones were still available, but Atlanta didn’t feel compelled.

The Falcons certainly could’ve opted to bolster their defense with a young stud like Micah Parsons, Jaycee Horn, or Patrick Surtain II.

Instead, the front office pulled the trigger on Pitts. The former Florida Gators standout garnered a great deal of hype after his monster junior campaign in Gainesville.

Even though tight end was not a position of a dire need for the Falcons, Pitts is proving why they made the right call. His combination of size, speed, and athleticism make him a matchup nightmare. It’s no surprise that he’s chasing Mike Ditka.

Pitts’ sneaky-good rookie season bodes well for Atlanta’s future

Whether or not Kyle Pitts breaks Mike Ditka’s rookie receiving record, he’s already started his NFL career on the right foot.

Pitts leads the Atlanta Falcons in receptions (64) and receiving yards (949). The rookie tight end has only scored one touchdown, but that speaks more to the play-calling in the red zone than Pitts’ talent.

The 21-year-old’s route-running chops and athletic ability allow him to create separation from opposing defenders. He’s averaging 14.8 yards per reception through 15 games.

With the emergence of Pitts, the future of the Falcons’ offense is bright. Calvin Ridley has missed time for personal reasons, but this duo could be dangerous if he can return at 100%.

Cordarrelle Patterson has enjoyed a breakout season of his own as a swiss-army knife for Arthur Smith. Even Russell Gage has made the most of his increased opportunities.

Atlanta has building blocks on both sides of the football. The front office must now do its job and fill in the gaps as best as possible.

Kyle Pitts must continue being a focal point for the Falcons in 2022 and beyond, no matter who’s on the roster.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference

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