Lofty expectations are sure to hover around rookie tight end Kyle Pitts this upcoming season and for good reason. When you’re the highest drafted tight end in NFL history, those expectations are justified. Chemistry developed between Pitts and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is vital for the new Falcons offense in 2021. The success of Pitts this season will have a substantial impact on the Falcons offensive success as a whole. During the 2020 college football season, Pitts registered 12 touchdown receptions on just 43 catches and proved to be the best playmaker on the Florida Gators offense. Can that touchdown productivity translate to the NFL on Sundays? It’s time for another over/under spin on the amount of touchdowns scored by Pitts for his upcoming rookie season.
As noted, Pitts was a scoring cog during his final collegiate season at the University of Florida. His 12 touchdown receptions were tied for third in the FBS last season and he started off the 2020 campaign with seven touchdown receptions in the first three games. Also be mindful that Pitts accomplished that feat in just eight games played. The touchdown leader among tight ends in the NFL last season was Kansas City’s Travis Kelce with 11 in 15 games played. Pitts will see his game translate to the NFL with his elite speed and athleticism but we should keep it fairly realistic when setting his touchdown baseline as a rookie. We will kick things off with a baseline of eight touchdowns.
The case for the over
His touchdown frequency last season was impressive, but of course, we must dig a little deeper for this over/under segment. Not sure if you are aware by this point but the head coach for the Falcons this season so happened to call plays for a Tennessee Titans team that favored their tight ends last season. How so? You ask. Well, under Arthur Smith’s watchful eye, the Titans were sixth in the NFL last season in red zone target success rate to tight ends, according to Sharp Football Stats. They were also second in the NFL in total target rate to tight ends in the red zone at 43%. Bottom line, an offense under Smith’s play calling showed a habit of feeding the tight end spot. More targets in the red zone means more scoring opportunities for a 6’6 target such as Pitts.
When you add in the versatility that Pitts showcases as it pertains to route running, his ability to generate mismatches all over the field was something that was often seen during his time as a Gator. With a pair of touchdowns last season that totaled 54 and 71 yards respectively, Pitts was able to show that he is more than just a tall red zone target. He is also a weapon that can make a house call with the ball in his hands.
The case for the under
Make no mistake about it, I know, you know, and opponents/coaching staffs know that Pitts will be a very relied upon weapon this forthcoming season. The field may have looked a little more open if it was shared with former Falcons receiver Julio Jones. But now that chapter is closed and I am willing to bet that Pitts will see the second most targets on the team this upcoming season.
Given that he will see a heftier workload in his first season as a professional, it should nearly be expected that a rookie wall may occur which of course can impact production. Pitts will almost certainly have to hit the ground running in year one as a rookie and the expectations of being the highest drafted tight end in NFL history are made for shoulders that are lofty. There is no doubt in my mind that Pitts will show considerable growth and be one best playmakers in all of football. But heavy attention from defenses week in and week out along with the probable adjustment to 17 regular season games played instead of eight or 10 could alter the overall production of Pitts to a very solid season instead of one that leaves an historical marking.