Pitts struggled to establish consistency with Marcus Mariota last season before missing the majority of his second year with an injury. A run-first offense that adds Bijan Robinson to the mix doesn't figure to be a boost to Pitts' potential post-hype sleeper case. The bigger issue could be a pass game that struggles to get Pitts the ball when he's open leading to inconsistent weekly production. At the tight end position, if you're not consistently scoring enough to provide a weekly advantage, it's hard to justify ADP. Pitts had just three top-12 weekly finishes in 10 games last season. You can buy him at a two-round discount in Rounds 6-7 this year, but don't be certain all discounts are also good values.
If you don’t want to be in on Pitts this year, that’s fine. He probably still won’t get help from his team’s passing volume, and his QB remains iffy.
But if you’re “out” on Pitts because you just think he’s an overrated talent, then you’re setting yourself up to lose out when things do break right for him. We recommend changing that mindset.
What We Learned Last YearTwo prime factors kept us from learning much about Pitts in his second season.First, his team barely threw the ball. Atlanta ran at the league’s second-highest rate for the season, trailing only Chicago. It was even worse when QB Marcus Mariota was starting. The Falcons ranked 32nd in neutral-situation pass rate over those 13 weeks.That improved a little when rookie Desmond Ridder took over after the bye. Atlanta ranked 24th in neutral pass rate over that span.Pitts ranked second among TEs in target share for the season, trailing only Ravens TE Mark Andrews by a slimmer margin than the gap between Pitts and No. 3 Travis Kelce.Atlanta’s lack of total volume left him with just the position’s seventh most targets through 11 weeks, though. Poor QB play helped turn that into just 28 receptions, 18th among TEs over that span.Why just 11 weeks? Because that’s when an MCL injury ended Pitts’ season.Before he went down, Pitts compiled a worse catch rate, fewer yards per catch, a lower Pro Football Focus receiving grade, fewer yards per route, and a worse passer rating on balls thrown his way than he did as a rookie in 2021.That collection shows a mix of QB effect and areas in which Pitts could improve.He still ranked a solid eighth in receiving grade at the position and seventh in yards per route.
What to Expect in 2023Pitts should be ready to start the season. But we don’t know whether his QB situation or team passing volume will improve.Desmond Ridder should be a passing upgrade over Marcus Mariota, but he earned a worse PFF passing grade last season. If he falters in Year 2, Atlanta did add former Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke as insurance.Atlanta should pass at a higher rate than it did before Pitts went down last season. That rate did climb after Ridder entered the lineup. And HC Arthur Smith’s 2021 Falcons ranked 14th in the league in neutral-situation pass rate.That team sported Matt Ryan at QB, with Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson leading the backfield.We’re not expecting a Ridder-Bijan Robinson remix to approach that level. But there’s at least hope for some more passing volume.Really, the reason to bet on Pitts is his own talent, though. He ranks 14th all-time in receiving yards for a TE through two seasons, despite tying for just 137th in games played and tying for 28th in receptions.Pitts has spent less than 26% of his passing-down snaps at an inline position, meaning he’s running from the slot or out wide three-quarters of the time. Translation: They want him running routes and catching passes, not blocking.
Pitts is entering his third NFL season after falling short of massive expectations in 2022. Pitts was hyped up for obvious reasons -- he went for 1,026 yards and was fantasy's No. 6 TE as a 20-year-old rookie -- but the Florida product's season was derailed by Atlanta's run-heavy scheme and a seven-game injury absence. In 10 games, Pitts was limited to two weekly fantasy finishes better than 12th. On the plus side, Pitts' 27% target share trailed only Mark Andrews among TEs and he's now led the position in aDOT in both seasons. Atlanta will continue to run the ball plenty, but Pitts is still only 22 years old and remains without much competition for targets. He's an excellent post-hype target with massive upside.