According to Pro Football Focus, the Florida Gator product, despite having yet to play a snap at the next level, has been ranked as the No. 4 tight end heading into Week 1. He is the only rookie who cracked the top five and is even ranked before Philadephia Eagles veteran Dallas Goedert.
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Pitts Was Considered the 2021 NFL Draft’s ‘Unicorn’
This year’s draft was heavily focused on quarterbacks from picks one through three overall, making Pitts the first non-QB to go in the draft.
Pitts, out of all 259 players selected, was considered the draft’s “unicorn.” He finished the 2020 COVID-19-plagued season dominating the field having 43 catches for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns through eight games.
PFF explained the reasoning behind ranking Pitts so high before he even takes his first NFL snap:
This may be early for a player who has yet to take an NFL snap, but it’s a reflection of the caliber of prospect Pitts is coming out of Florida. He’s just different.
Pitts has an absurd catch radius at 6-foot-6 with 33.5-inch arms, and he pairs that frame with high-end speed and rare cutting ability at his size. Those measurables helped lead to a 96.1 receiving grade this past season at Florida. The Falcons’ decision to pair him with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley in Arthur Smith’s new offense poses a difficult challenge for defensive coordinators in the NFC South.
With his massive frame and abnormal 4.4 speed, Pitts should be a matchup nightmare on the field.
He also adds versatility to the Falcons offense and can act as a tight end or even a wide receiver if Atlanta needs it. It also helps that new head coach Arthur Smith is a huge fan of running an offense with two tight ends, so between Pitts, Jones, Hayden Hurst, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, Ryan will have a dream team to work with.
Kittle is Back at the Top Despite a 2021 Injury-Plagued Season
Pro Football Focus seems to have plenty of faith in the 49ers star George Kittle staying healthy next season, ranking him at No. 2 ahead of Week 1.
Kittle, 27, missed eight games last season with a broken foot to finish the year with 48 receptions for 634 yards and ranked 35th among all NFL pass-catchers.
He has been one of the best players in the league through the past three seasons and PFF thinks he will keep it that way if he can stay healthy:
Kittle still imposed his will as both a receiver and blocker when on the field in 2020. The issue was that he was only on the field for eight games, missing significant time with a broken bone in his foot.
Since 2018, Kittle is the highest-graded tight end in the NFL (93.4) on the back of the highest receiving grade at the position (93.7) and third-highest run-blocking grade (78.0). Unlike Kelce, the majority of his damage comes inline, where Kyle Shanahan does as good of a job as any coach in the NFL at creating mismatches in coverage. Kittle’s 1,811 receiving yards when lined up inline since 2018 are over 500 more than any other tight end.
Kelce had been in a battle for the No. 1 spot and was able to secure it last season after breaking Kittle’s record for receptions yards by a TE. Kittle had 1,377 receiving yards in 2018, but Kelce set a new benchmark with 1,416 yards in 2020.