Now that free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft draft are (mostly) behind us, it’s time to take a closer look at the Atlanta Falcons’ roster heading in to the summer. Outside of a few additions and subtractions here and there in the course of training camp and the preseason, this is the roster Atlanta will be working with during the 2022 season.
We’ll kick things off with a look at the projected starters and players competing for those spots. Next up is tight end. Perhaps the strongest overall position group on the roster, the team returns just two players in Pro Bowler Kyle Pitts and former UDFA Parker Hesse.
Let’s start with electric second-year player Kyle Pitts.
TE Kyle Pitts
Contract: $7.48M cap hit in 2022, rookie contract through 2024 (5th year option available for 2025)
Career Production: 17 games played, 15 games started | 68 receptions for 1,026 yards (15.1 YPR), 1 TD | 80.3 overall PFF grade
2021 Production: Same as above
Previous Teams: Drafted in the 1st round (4th overall) by the Atlanta Falcons (2021-present)
In a year of offensive disappointment for the Falcons, there were only a handful of bright spots. One of them was undoubtedly rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, who burst on to the scene as an immediate impactful contributor. Pitts was immediately forced into the #1 receiving role on the team with Calvin Ridley stepping away for mental health reasons, and he handled the responsibility admirably. The young phenom had the second-best rookie season in NFL history for a tight end, and came remarkably close to matching Mike Ditka’s incredible yardage number of 1076 (set back in 1961 in just 14 games).
Pitts was Atlanta’s most productive receiver (1026 yards) and second-most productive offensive player in total yardage behind only Cordarrelle Patterson (1166 yards). He was a dominant deep threat (15.1 YPR) and quickly became a trusted target for Matt Ryan. The only deficiency in his game was in the red zone, as Pitts caught just one touchdown and wasn’t targeted as frequently as expected. Seeing Pitts facing double coverage was routine, and he often saw three defenders in the endzone. Perhaps that’s not surprising considering the only other Falcons receiver to top 500 yards was Russell Gage. Teams simply weren’t concerned with any of the Falcons other options.
That being said, there’s no reason to doubt improvement from Pitts in his second NFL season. Atlanta made a point of bringing in reinforcements at receiver and tight end to punish teams for dedicating so many defenders to Pitts. Hopefully, Pitts can take the next step and solidify himself as the NFC’s best tight end this season. The only thing holding him back at this point might be the quarterback situation—we’ll see if some combination of Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder can keep this passing game afloat.
Projection: Kyle Pitts is likely to be the top target in the passing game once again. Expect Pitts to reprise his multiple role in 2022, lining up as a traditional in-line tight end, in the slot, and flexed out wide.