Fantasy Court: The Case For Kyle Pitts

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This article is part of The Fantasy Court series. Be sure to check out The Case Against Kyle Pitts by Matt DiSorbo (@datavizuals).

Check out where Andy, Mike, and Jason have Kyle Pitts ranked.

Opening Statement

Your honor, what I am presenting to you today is the case for Kyle Pitts in the upcoming 2022 NFL season. Pitts is not just some ordinary tight end. We are talking about one of the most talented tight ends in recent history coming off one of the best rookie campaigns ever. Now that he is the focal point of the offense and has the experience, I would not be surprised to see him put up elite fantasy numbers in the tight end position in 2022.

Historical Rookie Season

As mentioned in my opening statement, Kyle Pitts is heading into 2022 after a historic rookie season. Pitts had 110 targets, catching 68 passes for 1,026 yards and one touchdown. Pitts recorded the third-most receptions and the second-most receiving yards of all time by a tight end in their rookie season. He was the youngest tight end in history to average at least 60 yards per game. Since 2000, there have been four tight ends to have a season with 50 or more receptions, at least ten games played, and at least 15 yards per reception. Those four tight ends are Rob Gronkowski (twice), Antonio Gates, George Kittle, and Kyle Pitts.

The most games in a season with 100 yards receiving by a tight end is six (Travis Kelce, Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez). Pitts had three games over 100 receiving yards in his rookie season. He offers week-winning upside with those performances, and I expect him to hit 100+ yards several times in 2022.

Pitts will be the Focal Point of the Offense

Kyle Pitts led all Falcons pass-catchers in his rookie season in all receiving categories except for touchdowns, which we will discuss later. The Falcons lost Russell Gage to free agency and will not have Calvin Ridley for the 2022 season. They drafted Drake London with the eighth overall pick in the NFL Draft, and he will likely play a significant role on the team with the lack of other pass-catchers. The Falcons also added Bryan Edwards after a trade with the Raiders, but he has not shown anything to cause concern that he will command a large target share. Pitts will undoubtedly lead the team in targets, receptions, and yards again and could improve upon last year’s numbers while adding some touchdowns.

Quarterback Situation May Not Be As Bad As People Think

I am not here to convince anyone that Marcus Mariota is a great or even a good QB, but I am here to convince fantasy managers that Mariota has been good enough in the past to support tight end production in fantasy. Mariota started most of the games for the Titans from 2015-2018, and during that time, Delanie Walker was a great fantasy tight end. Below are Walker’s stats during that time.

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Year Player Targets Target Share Receptions Yards TDs Fantasy PPG Fantasy Finish
2015 Delanie Walker 133 26.2% (1st) 94 1,088 6 13.2 (3rd) 4th
2016 Delanie Walker 102 22.3% (2nd) 65 800 7 10.4 (7th) 5th
2017 Delanie Walker 111 22.9% (4th) 74 807 3 8.6 (6th) 6th

Are they spectacular? No, but it does show that Mariota supported a consistent fantasy tight end. I also think that Pitts is a better player in year two of his career than Delanie Walker was during that stretch. Mariota also started one game for the Raiders in 2020, and in that game, Darren Waller caught 9-of-12 targets for 150 yards and a touchdown.

There is also a possibility that the Falcons will start rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder at some point this season. The Falcons didn’t select Ridder until the third round of the 2022 NFL draft, which will likely mean he is not guaranteed any playing time. If he beats out Mariota for the job, that may simply mean he is better, which may be a positive for Pitts.

Potential Cheat Code In Your TE Slot

Kyle Pitts is a threat no matter where he is on the field. Whether he lined up inline, in the slot, or out wide, Pitts produced solid numbers in his rookie season. The Falcons know they have a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses and will use him as such. Pitts may not just be an uber-talented tight end but also a top wide receiver. Per Scott Barrett from Fantasy Points, Kyle Pitts had the highest yards per route run among all players from routes ran outside. I am not saying that Pitts is a better wide receiver than all of the other names on this list, but it goes to show just how talented and dangerous he is all over the field.

He is a downfield threat, and his 15.1 yards per reception was sixth among all pass-catchers in the 2021 season who had at least 50 receptions. Getting a tight end who lines up everywhere and can win all over the field carries so much upside. Last season he was third in receiving yards among tight ends and 24th among all pass-catchers. When you are drafting Kyle Pitts, you are drafting a potential cheat code because of his utilization on the field as a focal point of an offense that you can start in your tight end slot.

Potential Positive TD Regression

The only thing missing from Kyle Pitts‘ historic rookie year was a lack of receiving touchdowns, and he only had one in the entire year, which is wild considering the volume he received. Pitts had the most receiving yards ever by a tight end with one or fewer receiving touchdowns, and he had the fourth-most receiving yards among all pass-catchers with one or fewer receiving touchdowns. Touchdowns are not a predictable stat, and just because Pitts lacked in 2021 does not mean he will lack in 2022.

Mike Evans is someone that Pitts was often compared to during the draft process due to size. Evans caught 12 touchdowns in his rookie season and followed up the next season with three. Touchdowns can vary yearly, but the opportunity to score will be there if the volume is consistent.

Pitts’ ADP isn’t Terrible

Per the Ultimate Draft Kit, Kyle Pitts is currently drafted as the TE3 at 3.07. A late third-round pick in redraft leagues does seem like a lot to pay for Pitts, and I get why fantasy managers are hesitant to pick him there. I believe his upside as a solid positional advantage for fantasy managers makes it worth the risk of a late third-round pick or early fourth-round pick.

You could think it’s crazy to take Pitts as the TE3 over the likes of George Kittle or Darren Waller, and I would understand that argument. The thing is, Kittle and Waller both may not be the focal points of their offenses, but I will concede they will be on better offenses. Other than touchdowns, Pitts as a rookie was not far off on a per-game basis on several key production stats from these two veteran tight ends.

Player Targets Per Game Target Share Rec Per Game Yards Per Game
Kyle Pitts 6.5 20.3% 4 60.4
George Kittle 6.8 24.9% 5.1 65
Darren Waller 8.5 24.2% 5 60.5

Considering this was Pitts’ first year in the league, there is much more room for growth in these stats for 2022. Kittle has had a decrease in target share since the 2019 season, and he has battled injuries and added target competition in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Darren Waller had an injury last season and will turn 30 years old as the season starts. He had 19 targets in Week 1 but failed to reach double-digit targets in 9-of-10 remaining games. The Raiders also added one of the best wide receivers in the league in Davante Adams, who will likely command a large target share, taking away from Waller. All of these tight ends will come with at least a little risk.

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When looking at the Ultimate Draft Kit, the 12 players that follow Pitts at his 3.07 ADP are mostly players I would pick Pitts over. Let’s take a look at some of these players for reference.

You may be hesitant to draft Pitts over a few of the players listed, and I would understand that. Evans and Allen both have top-12 wide receiver potential, and Zeke could still return top-12 running back value. I would also consider Tee Higgins over Pitts, but that’s about it. When I think of potentially drafting 4-of-12 players over someone, I don’t have a problem with their ADP, and in my opinion, Pitts offers the highest ceiling of all of these players.

Closing Argument

In closing, given his positional advantage at tight end, I believe there is a clear upside to drafting Kyle Pitts in 2022. When you draft Kyle Pitts, you are drafting a player you can rely on, and you won’t have to scour the waiver wire rotating tight ends in your lineup. You will have stability with an elite upside that can win you weekly matchups. I will always chase upside, especially with someone as talented as Pitts. With that, I rest my case.

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