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Bair: Don't let expectations define Kyle Pitts' rookie season

Judge the No. 4 overall pick empirically and on his own merits, not as compared with bold predictions

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts #8 during the AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Monday August 9, 2021. (Photo by Kara Durrette/Atlanta Falcons)

If Kyle Pitts proves slower than a speeding bullet, weaker than a locomotive and unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound, then his rookie season's an abject failure.

That's how preposterously high expectations feel for the Falcons tight end taken No. 4 overall, someone widely considered the most talented non-quarterback available in this year's NFL Draft.

Clark Kent's darn good in his own right, but he won't do when everyone expects Superman.

That puts Pitts in an unenviable spot. He could make a profound and immediate impact and folks will say, "See? I told you so." Even a season considered great for other rookies might be met with the shrug.


That's what happens when everyone wonders aloud whether he'll be the first rookie tight end in six decades to exceed 1,000 receiving yards. Mike Ditka did that in 1961, with Jeremy Shockey's 894 yards in 2002 standing as the best since.

Maybe Pitts will hit those marks, maybe not. He certainly has the talent to accomplish spectacular things, as we've regularly seen on the practice field during camp.

Just don't let your experience watching him play be influenced by what you were told should happen.

That's no way to view a 20-year-old man trying to make his way and fill a role designed to help the Falcons win. Look at him objectively through an unfiltered lens. And be patient. Give him time to develop and refine techniques designed to accentuate his great size and skill and then see what happens. There will be plenty of evidence to judge as you choose, based upon empirical evaluation over hearsay.

Making that request won't change the existing narrative. The Kyle Pitts hype train's already rumbling down the tracks.

Pitts understands that. He obviously has access to the internet and knows lofty expectations exist. He just doesn't care much about them.

"I want to come out and be the best player I can be every day," Pitts said in a Wednesday press conference. "I don't really like to listen to the outside noise or let it get to me. It's something I block out and focus in on myself."


That's easier said than done when everyone has a phone and even the most disciplined among us hit the mentions tab on the Twitter app.

"Oh, he's a very mature person, and I know we're all flawed to it, right?" Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said. "I mean if you just – you can open up your phone now and you can have everybody critique …

"I mean, today in the digital age, I think it's hard. But you've got to try to remind people [about keeping] perspective and to stay in the present, and all that matters is trying to continue to improve every day."

Pitts said that blocking outside noise is a learned behavior at which he's getting better. He knows that distraction doesn't help him get improve. His work here at Falcons camp certainly does, especially with the support system of coaches and veteran players trying to help him improve.

"You have to read what you need to read and ignore everything else," Pitts said. "You can't worry about the other things because they don't matter. I'm only worried about what's going on here in the building."

Pitts is prepping for a diverse role that will have him line up across the formation and should offer great opportunities to shine in 2021.

The Falcons are confident Pitts can handle everything thrown at him schematically and from the outside world when it comes to what he could and should do as a rookie. That's part of the reason why they took Pitts when they did and without reservation, believing he had the drive and mental fortitude to realize vast potential even under pressure.

"You got to give him credit, give his parents credit," Smith said. "We did all the work pre-draft with Kyle, he's certainly more mature than I was at 20 years old. He doesn't don't turn 21 I believe until we get to London [in early October]. I certainly didn't have these expectations and as much responsibility that age when I was running around Chapel Hill, so you got to give him credit. He is a mature man."

Kyle Pitts took the stage at the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland ready to Rise Up in his new Falcons gear.

pitts jersey promo

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