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A brief history of first-round TEs: Will the Falcons pass on Kyle Pitts?

The Falcons could one of the best tight end prospects in recent years.

Alexis Greaves/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons find themselves in an interesting spot in this year’s draft as they currently hold the No. 4 overall selection. Will they go quarterback? Will they trade down in the first round and add more picks? It’s possible that they might even move up to make sure they get their guy.

Whatever the case, there’s several options on the board and we’re taking a look at the recent history of specific positions that have been selected in round one. We’ve already looked at how quarterbacks, running backs and offensive tackles have fared. It’s time to take a look at the tight end position.

Below is every tight end taken in the first round since 2010:

2010:

2011:

  • none

2012

  • none

2013

  • Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals (21)

2014

2015

  • none

2016

  • none

2017

2018

2019

2020

  • none

Going by the list above, tight ends who were recently selected in the first round have been a disappointment, with a couple of exceptions. In fact, when you look at the top 5 or so tight ends in the NFL, not one of them was a first round selection. Arguably the two best, George Kittle and Travis Kelce were fifth-round and third-round selections respectively.

It’s not that a first-round tight end can’t amount to anything, or evne be great. But if you’re taking him as high as No. 4 overall, he better be a top-5 tight end at minimum. Specifically to the Falcons, they have a need at the position with Jaeden Graham and Luke Stocker expected to hit free agency. One name on the list above, Hayden Hurst, was sent to Atlanta for a second-round pick in 2020. He finished the season with 571 yards and 6 touchdowns. That’s not a horrible season, but didn’t have the immediate impact that a second-round pick should bring back. It’s possible he’ll flourish with a new offensive coordinator, however.

If the Falcons do go tight end that early, with the expectation that it would be Kyle Pitts, the Falcons would have invested two important picks in one position. Newly hired head coach Arthur Smith regularly featured two tight end sets while serving as offensive coordinator in Tennessee. It’s possible they may add someone in free agency, but at the current moment the spot remains a position of need.

Pitts’ best scheme fit is likely one where he’s used outside, in the slot, and in-line in multiple ways in both the running and passing game. I can’t deny that the thought of Kyle Pitts being on the same offense as Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley is certainly intriguing, especially if the team thinks he can be one of the best tight ends in the league. The combination of Pitts and Hurst could do incredibly damage across the middle along with Russell Gage, making Matt Ryan’s job easier if they decide to punt on selecting a quarterback early.

In a perfect world, if the Falcons do select Pitts, they hopefully trade down and grab some picks to go along with the selection. Otherwise, #4 seems a little high for a tight end while knowing that several teams will eagerly be trying to move up for their quarterback of the future.