When the Atlanta Falcons selected Kyle Pitts with the fourth overall pick in 2021, it wasn’t a surprise because of how rare the young tight end’s skill set was coming out of Florida. While there’s no such thing as a can’t-miss prospect in the NFL draft, Pitts was about as close as it gets.
In his rookie season with the Falcons, Pitts lived up to the hype with 68 catches for 1,026 receiving yards and one touchdown. However, that production took a major dip in 2022 due to a variety of factors.
Marcus Mariota replaced Matt Ryan as Atlanta’s starting quarterback, but he never quite got on the same page with Pitts. Fans eventually lost their patience as Mariota continued to miss on medium and deep throws last season.
26% of Marcus Mariota’s passes were deemed uncatchable last season.
Here is a bunch of plays where he missed Kyle Pitts.
— Nick Penticoff (@NickPenticoff) April 18, 2023
Pitts later tore his MCL, bringing his sophomore campaign to an end with just 28 catches, 358 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 10 games. Despite having a down year in 2022, many are predicting a bounce-back season for Pitts in 2023.
NFL.com listed the 22-year-old as one of nine players “guaranteed” to improve this season:
As the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history (No. 4 overall), Pitts entered the league with unparalleled hype. Consequently, while he earned Pro Bowl honors as a rookie, some still view him as a disappointment. That is wrong, especially just two years into his career. Don’t let your preconceived notions suffocate a developing player. Everyone praises Pitts’ work ethic, and given the pass-catching prowess that he entered the league with, his plus blocking has been a pleasant surprise. I anticipate the receiving numbers will come back in a big way in 2023.
Flanked by Drake London and now Bijan Robinson in Smith’s attack, Pitts won’t command all attention from opposing defenses. That said, with Desmond Ridder under center, you can bet the second-year quarterback will routinely lean on his 6-foot-6, 246-pound mismatch nightmare/safety valve. — Adam Schein, NFL.com
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said he expects his star tight end to return by Week 1, but will we see the Year 1 version of Pitts, who looked like the next Tony Gonzalez, or will it be the Year 2 version, who often seemed like an afterthought on offense?
We’ll have to wait until Atlanta’s Week 1 matchup against Carolina to find out.