When a rookie comes into the NFL, especially one drafted highly, pressure and expectations often follow. For an athletic marvel like Kyle Pitts, the rookie tight end for the Atlanta Falcons, it’s no exception.
Without putting more pressure on Pitts, there is reason to believe that he could be in line for a historic rookie season.
Mike Ditka, who was a rookie tight end with the Chicago Bears in 1961, set the high water mark of 1,076 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, according to Statmuse.com. It hasn’t been threatened for 50 years.
Pitts, who steps into one of the highest passing volume teams in the league in the Atlanta Falcons, who just saw future Hall of Fame wide receiver Julio Jones be traded out of town, has a perfect ecosystem for early success.
The Atlanta Falcons throw the ball a ton
Last year, with a weak defense and an essentially nonexistent run game, the Falcons leaned heavily into the passing attack with quarterback Matt Ryan at the helm. They did little to suggest that the script will be changing this year, selecting Pitts with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.
That’s the highest a tight end has ever been selected.
The only notable addition to the running game (if you want to call it “notable”) was with the signing of running back Mike Davis, who spent last year filling in for the injured Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers. He was average on the ground at 3.9 yards per carry, but proved to be efficient in the passing game with 59 receptions in 15 appearances.
The Falcons took to the air at the fourth-highest clip on any team, throwing the ball 39.2 times per game. That should continue this year, and with no Julio Jones in the picture, Pitts is going to have an immediate role.
Kyle Pitts will line up all over the formation
The Atlanta Falcons are not viewing Pitts simply as an in-line tight end, and nor should they.
The 6-foot-6, 246 pound offensive weapon ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the University of Florida Pro Day, and measured with a larger wingspan than the new Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson.
He lined up all over the field at Florida, using his combination of speed and size to create mismatches with opposing defenders. He’s too big for cornerbacks. He’s too fast for safeties. He’s too everything for linebackers. He’s a defensive coordinator’s worst nightmare.
Pitts is going to feast in an offensive scheme that is going to continue to use him how he was used in college, reportedly putting him in motion and lining him up all over the formation in training camp, according to AtlantaFalcons.com.
Pitts had a dominant 2020 college season
If the 2020 season hadn’t been impacted by COVID-19 and a couple missed games due to injury, Pitts could have been in the Heisman Trophy conversation. In only eight games, Pitts logged 770 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, including a 129 yard performance against the vaunted Alabama defense.
Every game, the defense knew he was the focal point of the offense. Every game, it didn’t matter.
Pitts has an opportunity to have a historic rookie season, and marks a transition in the tight end position that has been gradually taking place in the NFL. At only 20 years old, there is a real possibility that Pitts could step into the top-tier of NFL tight ends sooner than later, something that historically is very rarely done.