With the 2021 NFL Draft behind us, fantasy football owners are now looking ahead to their upcoming drafts. While the rookie class provides plenty of promise, what will be the value of these prospects from a fantasy perspective? Here, we discuss the potential of Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts:
After spending time with the Florida Gators across the last three years, Pitts gained momentum as a draft prospect primarily during his junior season. In 2018, he served as a key member of the special teams unit and was listed as a reserve tight end. In three games, Pitts totaled three receptions for 73 receiving yards. His first collegiate touchdown came against Idaho on a 52-yard reception.
The following season, Pitts became more involved with Florida’s offense. With Kyle Trask under center, Pitts led the team in receptions (54), finished second in receiving yards (649), and third in touchdowns (5); all statistics being the most among SEC tight ends.
During the shortened 2020 season, Pitts skyrocketed his draft stock after finishing with 43 receptions, 770 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns. In the opener against Ole Miss, Pitts recorded 170 receiving yards and four touchdowns on eight receptions. He remained consistent, totaling 50 or more receiving yards in seven of eight contests.
Entering the 2021 NFL Draft, Pitts was one of the most talked-about offensive prospects in a class that ultimately saw seven consecutive offensive players selected to open the first round. There were rumors about teams being interested in trading up for Pitts, but he ultimately wound up with the Atlanta Falcons with the sixth overall pick.
The Falcons had their fair share of faults, but it didn’t necessarily come through the passing game. Matt Ryan, 36, threw for 4,581 passing yards; fourth in the NFL. Calvin Ridley enjoyed a career-high 1,374 receiving yards to go with nine touchdowns last season. Across the last three seasons, he is responsible for 26 touchdowns.
The biggest headline will surround Julio Jones, who made his way onto the trade market following last season. With a $23 million cap hit this upcoming season, most speculate the team will move on from the 32-year old during the month of June. Last season, Jones finished with 771 receiving yards and three touchdowns across nine games. An ongoing hamstring injury limited his underwhelming campaign.
Atlanta has seen moderate success from the tight end position as of late, with Hayden Hurst debuting with the team during the 2020 season. He accumulated 571 receiving yards and six touchdowns last season; finishing 10th among fantasy tight ends. The year prior, Austin Hooper managed to put together a career-high in receiving yards (787) and touchdowns (6). Hooper finished as the TE6 on the season; 24 fantasy points higher than the TE7 (Jared Cook).
Fantasy Draft Projection
To this point, Pitts appears undervalued among fantasy prospects for the 2021 season. Fantasy Pros has him ranked as the TE9, behind notable names such as Noah Fant and Robert Tonyan. Among all fantasy prospects, Pitts is ranked at #90. Yahoo Sports also has Pitts as the TE9 ahead of the 2021 season, but ahead of Tonyan and behind Tyler Higbee. Assuming evaluations remain the same, Pitts would be valued as a seventh-round selection in fantasy drafts among 12-man leagues. With Jones eventually out of the picture, Pitts could be a value selection in the later stages of the sixth round.
2021 Season Output
If the team does trade Jones at some point during the offseason, that’s a lot of production to replace. He has surpassed 1,000+ receiving yards on seven occasions. In a 10-year span, Jones is responsible for 848 receptions and 60 touchdowns. While both Pitts and Hurst will be forced to split reps, the Falcons had the ninth-highest pass play percentage last season. The season prior with Austin Hooper, the team led the NFL with a pass play percentage of 66.97%.
The backfield is currently projected to be led by Mike Davis, who carried the ball for 120+ attempts with the Carolina Panthers for the first time in his six-year career. Davis, who finished with 642 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 15 games last season, isn’t necessarily considered an elite three-down back in the NFL.
Pitts is going to be a reliable starter for fantasy owners during his rookie season, assuming Jones is not part of the 2021 roster. Between the positive reports during the offseason and those currently within his “fantasy tier”, Pitts has the ceiling to finish as the TE6 this season; an eventual production rating of a fifth-round talent.
2021 Stats: 67 receptions, 760 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns