Through several mock drafts this year, the Atlanta Falcons were projected to take a quarterback at No. 4 overall. Instead, the Falcons selected the first non-quarterback of the draft in University of Florida tight end, Kyle Pitts.
The pick grabbed the attention of many, including San Francisco 49ers star tight end, George Kittle. Recently, Kittle spoke with Heavy and made the argument that he believed Pitts may have come off the draft board a few picks too late.
“I believe that he should have been drafted first overall, just for fun, because I think he’s probably the best athlete in the draft and he has been for a while,” Kittle told Heavy.
As a 6-foot-6, 245-pound TE with the lightning speed of a wide receiver, Pitts was deemed the 2021 draft’s unicorn by his former head coach Dan Mullen, as The Draft Network’s Trevor Sikkema revealed.
“I’ve talked to him a little bit over social media, but he seems like he has his head on straight. He’s got an unreal set of skills and I think he’s gonna be pretty legit out there. So, I’m excited to see him work and excited to see how his brain works. I think he’s gonna have a great rookie year, it’s going to be great.” Kittle said.
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Kittle Explains Why a TE’s NFL Transition Is Harder Than Other Positions
In just eight games, Pitts finished the 2020 season reeling in 43 catches for 770 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Now he will transition into the NFL where he’ll make the tough leap which many talented tight ends have struggled to do.
According to Kittle, you don’t see tight ends posting All-Pro or Pro Bowl seasons right off the bat because it takes at least a year for them to adjust to a faster-paced game.
The two-time Pro Bowler detailed why the jump to the professional level is harder for tight ends than at any other position.
“As a rookie, all you’re trying to do is memorize your playbook so you don’t mess up on film and so your coach doesn’t yell at you. You’re not really focusing on all the areas of your craft. For the tight end position, they kind of ask you to do everything. Whether it’s running routes and catching passes, or run blocking––you have to do everything really well to be a well-rounded tight end.”
Kittle is proof of that, as he was drafted out of the University of Iowa in 2017 and didn’t see his first Pro Bowl and second All-Pro year until the following season. During his second season, he set the 49ers’ franchise record for receiving yards in one game by a tight end (210) and become the first Niners tight end to surpass 1,000 receiving yards. He also broke Travis Kelce’s single-season receiving yards record for a tight end, finishing 2018 with 1,377 yards.
“There’s just so many things going on and it takes them a year for everything to slow down and for them to be able to figure out the playbook, but then focus on all the other skills like, “Hey, I got to work on my first step in the run game. I need to work on this top of the route. I got to catch more jugs balls. And so you figure out after that rookie year, everything slows down.”
Despite all of the things a rookie tight end has to juggle learning, Kittle has plenty of faith in Pitts ahead of his first year in Atlanta.
“I think Pitts is going to have a breakout season regardless, just because he’s in a great system. You’ve got a vet quarterback, you’ve got Calvin Ridley on the outside. Then you’ve got Hayden Hurst––those boys are going to be just fine.” Kittle said.
Pitts Will Attend Tight End University
Kittle, joined by Chiefs’ Travis Kelce and ex-Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, started a special event for top tight ends only. So, from June 23-25 in Nashville, some of the league’s most elite tight ends will come together to share techniques and ideas with each other.
Pitts will be in attendance for the inaugural Tight End University summit next week.
According to Kittle, 47 tight ends will be participating in this year’s event and a lot of Bud Light cans may or may not be crushed.
“There are some great sponsors for that whole event, we’re going to really enjoy it. Bud Light has been nothing but incredible. As for me, I think it’ll be a great day to be a Bud Light, but as a Bud Light, it might be a terrible day to be a Bud Light,” says Kittle.
Hurst will also be joining Pitts in Tennessee.
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