What should we expect from a player that did so much in his rookie year? Is it possible, or fair, to expect more from Kyle Pitts?
Yep. It is.
In his first professional season, Pitts lived up to his No. 4 overall draft pick (a.k.a. the highest a tight end had ever been drafted in the history of the draft). Pitts was a primary figure in the Falcons scheme, and that was to be expected.
Even the new heights reached by a tight end in his rookie year was to be expected for Pitts, too. Talking heads across the media landscape pegged Pitts to have a 1,000-yards receiving season in 2021 before he had ever made his first career catch.
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Fortunately for Pitts and the Falcons, he lived up to those expectations. He had 1,026 receiving yards. He averaged just over 15 yards a catch. And by eclipsing that 1,000-yard mark Pitts cemented himself in history, becoming only the second tight end to do so in his rookie year. The only other player to do this? Mike Ditka in 1961.
So, where does all of this leave Pitts in 2022? How do we manage expectations for someone who met almost every single one last year? Well, for starters, keep the expectations high.
Pitts is going to continue to be a prominent figure in this offense. He's going to get his targets. He should get his yards.
However, the offense does change with Marcus Mariota (or Desmond Ridder) under center and not Matt Ryan. How much will having a more mobile quarterback affect Pitts? That's to be determined, but chances are, it shouldn't affect him by the large margin some may assume it will. In fact, it may help him in a similar way it will help someone like Cordarrelle Patterson. The more wrinkles a play-caller has in an offense, the better.
The presence of Drake London and Bryan Edwards in the pass game may also change the way defenses have to look at the Falcons. But we're getting off track...
Should Pitts have another 1,000-yard season? Yep. But what's more? He should have more than one touchdown, and that's where the expectations should change.
During the pre-draft hullabaloo on Pitts, everyone talked about the asset he was in the red zone. Well, that asset was taken away at times in 2021. And he only caught one touchdown through 17 games (and it wasn't even on U.S. soil, one might add).
Getting Pitts more active in the red zone is where expectations change.
If Pitts truly is scratching the surface of who he is as a player in this league, as Arthur Smith has said, then the depths of which he can reach lay in the red zone.
We've seen what he can do from 20-to-20. Let's see more of what he can do inside the 20 in 2022.
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