Falcons need Kyle Pitts, 2021 NFL Draft class to help build sturdy foundation

Rookie focus shifts solely to football development with Kyle Pitts now signed

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Florida tight end Kyle Pitts celebrates being selected to the Atlanta Falcons with Roger Goodell during the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Alika Jenner/NFL)

Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts signed his rookie contract on Tuesday afternoon. It wasn't a drawn-out process, coming shortly after the rest of the 2021 Falcons draft class put pen to paper.

That's standard operating procedure these days. Holdouts deep into training camp are nearly extinct thanks to a rookie wage scale that has been in place for a decade and removes most wiggle room in contract talks.

Getting the No. 4 overall pick under contract before camp was never of grave concern. It is nice, however, to have it signed, sealed and delivered.

Same goes for the entire 2021 class. Let's not forget this was made possible in part by the Julio Jones trade, which created salary-cap space to do business of this sort. The 2022 second-round NFL draft pick will always be the focus of the Jones deal, but the cap relief both this year and next shouldn't be tossed aside. It's an important part of the Falcons building a better team now and into the future.

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Developing this draft class well is an important part of building a better team. The Falcons need a sturdy young foundation, and that comes by hitting on several selections, especially through the middle rounds.

Pitts seems like a real standout with star power. Second-round safety Richie Grant has intriguing potential. Getting contributions from the others, however, will determine how much of a contribution this class will make.

Every member of the nine-player group doesn't have to start. Most of them have to contribute. That's how you start building a team, with quality contributors working on rookie deals. That's how you can afford to keep the best of your own on a second contract, when premium dollars are required. The steadiest franchises stack draft classes and build from the inside over being reliant on imports. Let's not forget that free agency can often result in buying fool's gold. It's better used for specific targets, not wholesale changes.

While we haven't seen a single member of this class play a game or even practice in pads, there's a solid talent collection in place that could blossom into something special. Key word: could. We won't know how good this draft class is for a few years, even though at least one immediate impact would be nice.

Pitts is the only one needing to truly hit the ground running, which constitutes a fair and realistic expectation for the No. 4 overall pick widely considered the NFL Draft's best skill player. The Falcons are expected to line him up all over the formation, taking advantage of a unique skill set that includes otherworldly speed, agility and power for his frame.

The Falcons have veterans in place at safety, taking pressure off Grant to step in and play right away. Same goes for third-round offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield. Having either player step up and compete for a major role would be a plus, not a requirement.

This 2021 draft class was the first major opportunity for new general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith to shape this roster. How it fares will weigh heavily in how fast this team improves.

Now that the selections are done and the contract business is done, we'll monitor all nine players and chart their progress as players and their placement on the depth chart. The higher both of those bar graphs go, the better the Falcons will be in the long term.

The 2021 Rookie Class has completed the rookie development program. The accomplishment was celebrated with custom baseball jerseys and footballs for each rookie.

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