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The Atlanta Falcons selected Kyle Pitts as the 4th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which is the highest ever selection for a tight end. He is 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, and he ran a 4.4 40-yard dash. He is arguably the best tight end prospect in NFL history. Full stop.
Is He Worth the Hype?
If we're being optimistic and logical, he probably is. However, when will that hype translate to success, and more importantly, fantasy production? That's the big question. Can he be productive in his rookie season while other notable sure-fire rookie tight ends struggled to produce early? There are two sides to the coin. One that rewards the decision to take a chance on a generational player who happens to occupy the traditional tight end role, and one that exercises caution because historically, rookie tight ends rarely pan out.
If we compare him to other rookie tight ends in Pitts' case, he would need to perform well over what even the best rookie tight ends have ever done to justify his current average draft position (TE4). But what if he does? He may be a tight end on your fantasy roster, but who's to say he won't perform like a wide receiver? If his skill set and the Falcons usage are more like a wide receiver, we would be more inclined to buy into the upside. Plenty of rookie wide receivers have dominated in Year One; most recently Justin Jefferson.
He is listed as a tight end, so we will group him as such. Let's look at some historical statistics of rookie tight ends and their success.
Since 1990, seven tight ends have been drafted in the Top 10 overall, Pitts being the highest at fourth. The highest fantasy finish for any of those seven rookies was Rickey Dudley's TE12 finish way back in 1996.
Rookie Performance of the Highest-Drafted Tight Ends since 1990
Greatest Rookie Performance of All Tight Ends since 1990
The greatest rookie performance (since 1990) was Evan Engram's 2017 season, where he finished 3rd with 173.6 PPR points. On average, the best rookie tight ends finished with 50.3 receptions for 607.9 yards and 5.7 touchdowns, ranking 8th at the position. Kyle Pitts is being drafted as the 4th tight end after Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle. Those three are proven veterans with top finishes to back up their ADP. Kelce has five consecutive finishes in the Top 2, Waller is coming off two successive top-4 finishes, and Kittle has two top-3 finishes in the last three years. Pitts hasn't done anything yet.
Can he be a top-3 tight end this season? His quarterback checks all of the boxes.
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