If you look anywhere online, especially fantasy football Twitter, Kyle Pitts and his zero receptions for zero yards and zero touchdowns in the National Football League have made him into the greatest tight end ever! His final two years at Florida were nothing short of spectacular, and his rare physical tools were on display. He wrangled in 97 of his 145 targets, amassing 1,419 yards and 17 touchdowns, good for nearly 15 yards per reception. His final season at Florida, as well as his off-the-charts measurables made him the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft and the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history.
This guy is 6’6” tall, weighs 245 pounds and runs a 4.44 40-yard dash. Good gravy. HUMANS SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO DO THIS! Pitts is a unicorn at the position, and he’ll essentially be a tight end/wide receiver hybrid for the Atlanta Falcons. He can play all over the field and he displayed that at Florida, logging 54.7 percent, 24.1 percent and 21.2 percent of his snaps in line, in the slot and out wide respectively. What can Pitts do in his rookie year? The real question might be what can’t he do.
Rookie tight ends struggle, and other than Evan Engram back in 2017, rookie tight ends have failed to live up to the hype. Here’s all the first round tight ends dating back to 2013 and their rookie year numbers.
If you take the average numbers from the last eight rookie tight ends, it comes out to 93.6 fantasy points in a PPR format, which would have been the TE24 last season!
Can Pitts break the norm for rookie tight ends, and post the best fantasy season since Evan Engram in his rookie campaign? The answer is yes, because not many rookie tight ends get to walk into about as positive of a situation as Pitts has in Atlanta.
The Falcons traded Julio Jones, so an abundance of targets have been made available, and Pitts is the tight end from Day 1. Yes, Hayden Hurst is there, but there’s enough to go around and Hurst is no threat to Pitts. He has a more than capable quarterback in Matt Ryan, and with how bad Atlanta’s defense has been, they should be throwing it a bunch on a weekly basis. Furthermore, Arthur Smith is coming over from Tennessee, and he has already said he plans his offense to be more pass heavy than it was in Tennessee. The Titans didn’t throw it a ton under Smith, but Smith loves athletic tight ends. Jonnu Smith couldn’t fully break out in that offense because there wasn’t enough volume there. Well, Pitts is a more athletic Smith, and Atlanta will throw it a bunch. Dave Ragone has the Offensive Coordinator title, and if you read the Cole Kmet player profile, you’ll know that Chicago tight ends saw a good bit of volume in 2020.
Under Smith in Tennessee, his tight ends in 2019 had an 8.6 yards per attempt mark, which was fifth-highest in the league. While that mark dropped to 7.1 yards per attempt in 2020, the position commanded a 29 percent target share, which trailed only three teams (Raiders, Eagles & Browns). Again, a lack of volume made the 29 percent mark a bit less appealing, but that’s an insane number for any team that doesn’t rank in the bottom three of the league in pass attempts!
But, Colby, why aren’t you concerned about Hurst at all? I mean, he had 88 targets and caught 56 balls for 571 yards and six scores. Hurst averaged 3.5 receptions per game in 2020 and when targeting the tight end position, Matt Ryan’s yards per attempt was just 6.4 yards, good for 25th-best in the league. Ryan didn’t view him as a downfield threat, and he has his new role in Atlanta, which is playing second fiddle to Pitts.
Pitts is a polarizing asset in fantasy this year, because he has skyrocketed up the draft boards with what seems like every passing day. Look at the ADP data with Pitts, per NFFC, for each month.
|June (thru June 22)
Courtesy of NFFC Data
It’s a perfect trend line really. His overall ADP has become more expensive each month, and his minimum and maximum pick continue to be earlier and earlier in drafts. The price associated with him has become so inflated that it’s essentially a disappointment, in fantasy terms, if he doesn’t match what Evan Engram did four years ago. The margin for error in drafting Pitts has become so minute that without one of the best years in recent memory from a rookie tight end, he won’t provide a positive return on investment.
Pitts has all the physical tools to become one of the most dynamic tight ends in the National Football League and F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) will likely have some reaching for him to ensure they have a share or two in case the improbable happens. There is a learning curve to playing this position in the National Football League, and while Pitts has all the physical tools, we shouldn’t jump to a preconceived notion that because he ran well in spandex in a straight line that he’ll dominate the game’s highest level from Day 1.
I am not saying to fade Pitts, because I sure as hell won’t be, especially if another tight end or two not named Kelce, Kittle or Waller goes before him in the draft. However, there are some guys going shortly after Pitts that don’t have to have a “perfect” season to provide any sort of positive ROI.