At long last, we know who the Falcons have selected with their first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft: TE Kyle Pitts from Florida, the most electric receiving talent in the entire class.
By far the player with the most connection to Atlanta in the past week, Pitts seemed to gain steam late in the process as the chance for a trade down appeared to diminish. The Falcons followed through on their insistence that they would take Pitts off the board with their first selection, moving a major piece off the table for teams like Miami, Detroit, and Dallas. This pick signals that Atlanta has strong belief in Matt Ryan over the next several years and plans to build a contender around him with the help of this draft class.
We’ve discussed the possibility of Kyle Pitts joining the Falcons in great detail over the past few months. If you’re looking to take a deep dive into his skillset, look no further than our very own Everett Glaze’s full scouting report on Pitts from earlier this offseason. We had Kyle Pitts winding up in Atlanta in The Falcoholic Live’s final live mock draft, and in my own final mock draft which debuted this very afternoon. Here’s how I described the Pitts selection in that article:
In Kyle Pitts, Atlanta would be adding a potentially elite receiving threat to complement an already-loaded offense. Pitts is an incredible athlete with exceptional size, and has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen. He’s no slouch as a blocker either, and can more than hold his own when asked to line up in-line. Pitts is a transcendent talent, and would have plentiful one-on-one opportunities in an offense with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. If the Falcons want to win right now with Ryan, loading up the offense is probably the best way to do it.
With the selection of Kyle Pitts, the Falcons are loading up their offense under new head coach and playcaller Arthur Smith. The pick makes a lot of sense for what Smith likes to do on offense, as he was among the most effective coaches in the league at utilizing the tight end. Tennessee used 12 personnel (2 TEs) on 35% of all offensive snaps in 2020, the most of any team in the league, and 13 personnel (3 TEs) the third most of any team (9%). Collectively, the Titans used multiple TEs on more plays than they used 11 personnel (3 WRs). Smith’s offense also targeted the TE in the passing game at the fourth-highest rate in the NFL.
The Pitts addition gives Atlanta a terrifying 12 personnel grouping alongside Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Hayden Hurst. One of the benefits of 12 is that it typically forces teams into a base package defense, as the formation has traditionally been used to run the football. With Pitts and Hurst both solid run blockers, the package would put defensive coordinators in a bind—particularly if Atlanta can establish a more effective rushing attack in 2021.
Kyle Pitts is likely to become a focal point of the passing game in his rookie season—and unusual position for a rookie TE. His presence should help other primary targets like Julio and Ridley see more one-on-one matchups, and Pitts himself should prove to be an extremely difficult player to cover for all but the most athletic LBs and safeties. This move signals that the Falcons want to pump up their offense to be the engine of the team—and it certainly won’t be the last move towards that goal in the 2021 NFL Draft.
What are your thoughts on the addition of Kyle Pitts, and where do you see the Falcons going with the remainder of their picks?