Is Kyle Pitts Primed For A Breakthrough Season?

Jul 07, 2024
Is Kyle Pitts Primed For A Breakthrough Season?

Tight end can be a frustrating position to draft in fantasy football. Managers often either go for a top-tier option early or wait until the late rounds to gobble up the leftovers. It has become an annual tradition to talk about the depth of the position leading up to drafts. In reality, few tight ends can be counted on as consistent fantasy performers. It is not easy to break into that group of elite tight ends. Kyle Pitts entered the NFL with near-historic hype behind him. Living up to expectations has proven difficult for him. Still, Pitts has managed to remain in the TE1 range for two of his first three seasons. Can he take the next step in 2024?

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A Challenging 2023 Season

The entire Atlanta Falcons offense was underwhelming for fantasy purposes in 2023. Pitts finished the year with 53 receptions on 90 targets, amassing 667 yards and scoring three touchdowns. Pitts was TE13 in half-PPR scoring. Of those who finished higher in fantasy scoring, only Mark Andrews had fewer receptions (46), while Trey McBride and Dalton Kincaid were the only top-12 tight ends to have three or fewer touchdowns. Pitt tied George Kittle and Cole Kmet in targets, and his yardage total was the 11th highest due to his promising 12.5 yards per reception.

When he was on the field, he was productive; his 12.4% target rate ranked ninth among TEs with 60+ targets. However, he simply did not get on the field enough to produce at a steadier clip. He had a 64% snap rate. Kincaid, who also had a 64% snap rate, was the only top-12 finisher who did not surpass Pitts in this category. Another obstacle for Pitts was the resurgence of Jonnu Smith. Smith saw a 58% snap share and set career highs in receptions (50) and yards (582) last season. He was also a factor in the red zone, drawing eight targets to Pitts’ five, according to FantasyPros.

Atlanta Falcons Passing Outlook

Atlanta has a new coaching staff. The Falcons hired Raheem Morris as head coach, and he promptly brought in Zac Robinson, a coach he worked with in Los Angeles, as offensive coordinator. Robinson has spent the last five seasons coaching a productive offense under Sean McVay. Atlanta also acquired a veteran starting quarterback in Kirk Cousins.

There is reason to believe Robinson and Cousins could help increase tight end usage in Atlanta. Last season, in Los Angeles, Rams’ tight end Tyler Higbee posted an 86% snap rate, the third-highest rate in the NFL. Cousins had a tendency to look for his tight ends in the red zone as a Viking. T.J. Hockenson saw 14 targets inside the 20 while teammate Johnny Mundt collected four.

The Falcons were in the bottom eight in pass attempts last season and in the middle of the pack in plays run per game. Both of these statistics are expected to increase with Robinson at the helm. Los Angeles had 53 more pass attempts than the Falcons last season. Under former head coach Arthur Smith, the Falcons had the third-most rushing attempts in the league. A shift to a higher passing volume is a positive sign for Pitts.

How about Kyle Pitts?

No other player of Smith’s caliber is in the tight end room this season; Pitts will have every opportunity to dominate the tight end snaps in this offense. Pitts was second on the team in targets behind Drake London last season and will likely be in the same position of the pecking order again this year. During his three-year career, Pitts has caught 149 passes but only six touchdowns (4.0%) to show for them. It is a low touchdown rate that is likely to increase in 2024. Pitts also led tight ends with an average depth of target of 11.4 yards, suggesting more big play potential.

Pitts' best fantasy season to date was his rookie campaign in 2021 when he finished as TE7, and he was third among tight ends in receptions and yards. He also joined Mike Ditka as the only rookie tight ends to reach 1,000 yards receiving. Pitts is currently being drafted as TE6 (58th overall), which does not provide much wiggle room. There is not much value to be had when he is being drafted much closer to his ceiling than his floor. If I were not planning to go after Sam LaPorta or Travis Kelce in earlier rounds, I would be more comfortable taking George Kittle or Evan Engram a few picks later, based on their track record as reliable fantasy options.

Bottom Line

  • With the departure of Jonnu Smith, Pitts will have less competition for tight end snaps.
  • The low touchdown rate is unsustainable; positive touchdown regression is likely.
  • Kirk Cousins provides a significant upgrade at the quarterback position.
  • Kyle Pitts has a safe floor, averaging over three receptions per game, though his TE6 price tag is high.
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