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Pitts with Hurst will change this offense

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Which NFL rookie tight ends will be most productive in 2021? My analytics-based top-five rankings

Cynthia Frelund

NFL Network Analytics Expert


Draft season might seem like a distant memory at this point, but don't forget that history was made at the tight end position this year. Kyle Pitts became the highest-picked TE in draft history when the Falcons selected him fourth overall. The former Florida star is obviously the cream of the crop, but he's certainly not the only intriguing NFL newbie at the position this season. So, just what can we expect from this crew in Year 1?

As I did last week with rookie running backs, I've used contextualized data and my computer-vision models to project which rookie tight ends will be the most productive in 2021.

Kyle Pitts
Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons
Draft pick: Round 1, No. 4 overall

First, some background info to set the table, via Next Gen Stats. Last season as the Titans' offensive coordinator, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith used 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends) on 32.7 percent of snaps, the second-highest rate in the NFL behind only Philadelphia. The Falcons used it on just 13.9 percent of snaps in 2020 (ninth-lowest rate in the NFL). So, you might expect to see Pitts and his fellow Falcons tight end, Hayden Hurst, on the field at the same time a lot. Context matters a ton here, though, because not only did the presence (and departure) of Julio Jones matter to this projection, but Pitts does not forecast to be a traditional tight end, which you know after watching all of our draft coverage. Pitts lined up wide on over 35 percent of his snaps for Florida last season, and his wingspan is ridiculous (83 3/8 inches). So, I measured something new for you in this exercise because the impact of such a massive catch radius is an interesting thing to explore with him. Pitts caught passes thrown more than four feet away from his body at the highest rate of any pass catcher (including wide receivers) from the past two draft classes in their final collegiate season. Of the pass catchers selected in the first three rounds over the past two drafts, the average catch rate on such passes was 14.8 percent (15.3% for first-rounders only). Pitts' rate? 23.5 percent! My normal draft predictor model (which doesn't include the catch radius metric) ranked Pitts as the most likely future All-Pro from the 2021 draft class. I'm glad the new stat backs that projection up even more.

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Usually, I temper my excitement/expectations when it comes to players the Falcons acquire. However, I’m very excited about Pitts, and I think he is going to make a huge impact, and I think Hurst is going to benefit as well. I’m really liking what I see with the Falcons offense. I think Ryan has a massive chip on his shoulder, and is going to shut the pie-holes of the halfwit-haters. If the defense can stop being the overwhelming liability that they almost always are, then I like the Falcons chances of making the playoffs, and doing some damage.

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38 minutes ago, ADAMSVILLE GYM said:


Sorry... had to. It's been a bit slow on the boards as of late and I quit one job and don't start the next one until next week.... I'm running out of things to do 

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55 minutes ago, emc008 said:

Sorry... had to. It's been a bit slow on the boards as of late and I quit one job and don't start the next one until next week.... I'm running out of things to do 

you gotta dig deeper into your soul for maximum creativity. Exhaust ALL OPTIONS!


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