Kyle Pitts is coming off the best rookie tight season of all time (by some measurements), but a disappointing one by fantasy standards. Widely considered a generational prospect at the position, a natural second-year progression is expected. How should dynasty fantasy football managers value Pitts in 2022 and beyond?
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Kyle Pitts’ dynasty profile for 2022
Evaluating tight ends is always a bit trickier than running backs and wide receivers. When it comes to tight ends, it’s not enough for a player to be one of the best at his position — he also has to be a difference-maker.
Travis Kelce has been the dynasty TE1 for the last half-decade. But being the best doesn’t mean the same thing every season. From 2018-2020, Kelce finished as the overall TE1 in fantasy points per game (minimum eight games played). He averaged 18.4 points per game in 2018, 15.9 in 2019, and 20.9 in 2020. You can’t just say Kelce was the best tight end in fantasy and convey how well he performed.
It may seem ludicrous to be comparing Pitts to Kelce after the former has played just one professional season, but for some, Pitts is already the dynasty TE1. For Pitts to justify a ranking based on expected production (since it certainly wasn’t there last season), we need to compare him to the best.
Pitts averaged 10.4 ppg as a rookie. It was the best performance by a rookie tight end since Evan Engram averaged 11.6 ppg as a rookie in 2017. Is Pitts ready to take a massive leap forward in his sophomore season and become the prince that was promised? The ability to answer this question is key in determining how to value Pitts in dynasty going forward.
Fantasy projection for Pitts
Let’s start with all the positives — and there are many. Pitts is a ridiculous athlete. He’s 6’6″, 241 pounds, and he runs a sub-4.5 40 time. That’s absurd. He projected as a dominant red-zone target and elite downfield threat.
As a rookie, Pitts proved he could excel downfield, which is an area most tight ends don’t frequent. Pitts was second amongst tight ends in average depth of target, third in deep targets, and first in yards per reception. His 20.3% target share was sixth-highest at the position. He did all of this as a rookie.
Pitts is a glorified wide receiver playing tight end. He ran a route on 81.5% of his team’s pass plays. Although his rookie season was objectively a disappointment from a fantasy perspective, it really wasn’t disappointing at all. In fact, Pitts just about lived up to the hype.
His rookie season was better than it looks
Pitts’ 10.4 ppg was good for a paltry TE11 finish. He was a low-end, replaceable TE1. Absolutely not worth his price in redraft leagues. So, was Pitts a bad pick? Not at all. Fantasy managers who dove headfirst into Pitts as a rookie got unlucky — just like Pitts.
The rookie caught 68 of 110 targets for 1,026 yards. The only reason he was a bust from a fantasy standpoint was due to a lack of touchdowns. He scored just once all season. Based upon his yardage total, Pitts should’ve scored at least 6-7 times.
If we tack on another 6 touchdowns to Pitts’ total, he would’ve averaged around 12.4 ppg, posted a top-five season as a rookie, and we wouldn’t be having any debates about him.
In fact, while writing this article on Pitts, I’ve managed to sell myself on Pitts being worthy of a late-second/early-third-round redraft pick based upon an expected breakout. Touchdowns are fluky and difficult to project. Yet, we should presume Pitts scores at a more normal rate in 2022. If that happens, combined with a natural progression in overall performance, Pitts can be a top-five TE and a difference-maker at the position.
What is the talented TE’s future beyond 2022?
There’s not much to discuss regarding Pitts himself. He’s 22 years old and entering his second NFL season. Pitts has over a decade of football left in him.
Currently on his rookie deal, Pitts will play another season or two before likely getting an extension. He will be an alpha target hog on any offense.
The more immediate concern is the Falcons’ quarterback situation. Pitts is tied to this team for at least three more seasons. Right now, they don’t have their quarterback of the future. I like Marcus Mariota, but he’s a stopgap. Therefore, Atlanta is either going to draft someone this season or next season.
While Pitts’ quarterback does matter, we value talent over situation in dynasty because situations change. That is especially true when dealing with 22-year-old uber-talents. Pitts and his dynasty managers have plenty of time for the Falcons to figure out who their quarterback will be.
What can fantasy managers expect from Pitts?
2021 should be viewed as Pitts’ floor. Actually, no it shouldn’t. 2021 with a few more touchdowns should be viewed as Pitts’ floor. I don’t see a world where Pitts averages under 12.5 ppg unless he gets extremely unlucky in the touchdown department once again.
The Falcons are completely bereft of wide receiver talent. At this point, there’s nothing they can do to fix it immediately. Even if they draft two rookies or sign the best available free agents, no one will hold a candle to Pitts as their de facto WR1. He is going to lead this team in every conceivable receiving category.
The Falcons will likely struggle offensively, which would prevent Pitts from reaching his true ceiling. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t put up an elite TE1 season on a bad offense. I’m expecting Pitts to push 90 receptions and 1,300 receiving yards. If he can manage 8 touchdowns, that puts him at around 15.5-16 ppg. Those are borderline WR1 numbers at the TE position. That’s how tight ends make a difference in fantasy.
Dynasty managers should be trying to acquire Pitts any way they can. It won’t be easy — those with Pitts know how valuable he is. In TE-premium formats, you can just about forget the notion of being able to trade for Pitts. He’s an elite TE1 that has yet to ascend. That ascent is coming in 2022, and he should remain at the top for years to come.