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Why You Should Buy Back in to Kyle Pitts in 2022

Kyle Pitts - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Perception is reality. You likely have heard that saying before and while it is often true – there is certainly one area where it is not: in fantasy football. For example, there is a perception by some that Kyle Pitts was a bust last season and that could not be further from reality. 

When Pitts was drafted with the fourth overall pick, as the first non-QB off the board, expectations just shot up and up. He was being drafted as a top-five tight end off the board and some even pulled him up to the top three. Then, when Pitts finished as the overall TE6 and TE11 in fantasy PPG, many were disappointed. I even know of people who do this for a living who said they would not be going back for more in year two. That would be a mistake. 

So how did Pitts live up to the hype if some people think he didn’t? And even more important – should you be willing to buy back into Pitts this season?


Kyle Pitts Rookie Season 

When Pitts was drafted, he was labeled as the best rookie tight end in quite some time – arguably ever. Despite coming into the league at the age of 20, he did not disappoint. Pitts was the first rookie tight end to finish a season with 60-plus catches and over 1,000 receiving yards. He finished with the second-most receiving yards by a rookie tight end, trailing only Mike Ditka, and he scored the fourth-most fantasy points ever by a rookie tight end. He is one of just two rookie tight ends since 1967 to top 900 yards, let alone 1,000.

Pitts lived up to the expectation that he would be one of, if not the best, rookie tight end ever. What he did not live up to was the lofty expectations placed on Pitts by fantasy players. He scored the most fantasy points by any rookie tight end since 1989. Some of you reading this may not have even been born the last time a rookie tight end scored more fantasy points. However, there was an expectation that he could have finished as one of the very best tight ends in the sport, not just among rookies. To be honest, he easily could have last season. 

Pitts was one of just three players to see 100 or more targets and catch one touchdown or less – the others were Cole Beasley and Laviska Shenault Jr. Players who saw 100 or more targets last year averaged 6.75 touchdowns. If you boosted Pitts from one to six touchdowns, making him just an average touchdown scorer, he would have finished last year as the overall TE3 in fantasy and the TE6 in fantasy PPG. That number jumps slightly to an average of seven touchdowns when you raise it to 110 targets. Touchdowns can vary greatly year-to-year and a player with Pitts's ability and size (6’6, 245 pounds) has the potential to not only reach seven touchdowns, but double-digits is well in his range of outcomes. 

Pitts was not just good when compared to rookie tight ends. His 20 percent target share ranked third among tight ends and he was just one of three to see five or more targets in 15 games. His 60.4 yards per game ranked sixth at the position. He also ranked second in air yards at 1,110, second in air yard share (28 percent), second in air yards per target (10.1), third in deep targets, tenth in red zone targets (15), and fourth in routes ran (467). He lined up in the slot the ninth most of all tight ends. He also led the position with 45 targets while lined out wide, only two others (Mike Gesicki and Travis Kelce) had more than 22.

Pitts was advertised as a Swiss Army Knife that can line up as a traditional tight end, as well as out wide or in the slot like a receiver and that is exactly what he did in 2021. Now with a year under his belt, there is plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Pitts. 


Why To Buy Back In For 2022

After what Pitts did as a rookie, there should be plenty of optimism about what he could do as a sophomore in the NFL. Not only is Pitts's failure to live up to lofty expectations last year a reason some people are not jumping back in, but so is the change in QB. I won’t lie, going from Matt Ryan to Marcus Mariota or Desmond Ridder is a downgrade, but it might not be for Pitts. 

Mariota heavily relied on his tight end during his tenure as a starter with the Titans. In fact, 27 percent of his throws with the Titans went to tight ends. Specifically, with Arthur Smith, who was the OC in Tennessee and now the head coach in Atlanta, it was 23 percent. Mariota also has a track record of elevating his tight ends. Delanie Walker thrived with Mariota in Tennessee. Prior to Mariota’s arrival, Walker had never finished better than the ninth-best fantasy tight end. Once Mariota arrived in 2015, Walker elevated to a top-5 tight end. He did so for his three full seasons with Mariota, finishing as high as third at the position. Mariota should once again expect to heavily rely on his tight end in this system. 

There is also the chance that we see a change in QB as the Falcons drafted Desmond Ridder in the third round as the second QB in this year's NFL Draft. There is a bit of an unknown with Ridder, but you do always hear that a strong tight end provides a nice safety blanket for a QB. A QB change would potentially lower Pitts's weekly floor, but Ridder has more upside than Mariota, who is a known commodity at this level, meaning that Pitts would bring some more upside. 

Additionally, Pitts should continue to see heavy volume and very easily could top his 110 targets from last year. Pitts’ target competition is rookie Drake London, Bryan Edwards, Auden Tate, Damiere Byrd, and running back Cordarrelle Patterson. Pitts and London are in a position to each see a very high target share in this offense. There is enough talent around Pitts that should help take some defensive coverage away from him, but not enough to funnel volume away.

Lastly, the biggest thing in fantasy sports is draft cost. Pitts is going universally as the third tight end off the board. Currently, on FFPC his ADP is 19th overall. However, he goes 32nd overall in NFFC drafts and on Underdog. I do not love taking him in the second round, but if Pitts is sitting there in the third round – and if early best ball drafts are an indicator, he often will be – Pitts is a bet worth taking. At that cost, he would have to deliver WR2 numbers to meet value. Just last year he provided WR3 production as a rookie. He also has the upside to top that and well within his range of outcomes is finishing as the top scoring fantasy tight end. 

Pitts showed us that he has the talent and capability to play at a high level in the NFL and just a jump in touchdowns will make him worth taking as the third tight end off the board. If he sees an uptick in targets – which is expected – and efficiency, he could provide league-winning upside. 

Make sure to follow Michael on Twitter, @MichaelFFlorio.


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