Editor’s note: This is the fifth in an eight-part position-by-position series analyzing the Falcons’ roster before they report for training camp. The rookies report Tuesday and the veterans July 26.
FLOWERY BRANCH –– Tight end Kyle Pitts is hoping to have a strong follow-up to his sensational rookie season and first-round draft pick Drake London and newly acquired Bryan Edwards headline a revamped receiving corps for the 2022 Atlanta Falcons.
Pitts, the No. 4 pick in the 2021 draft, had 68 catches for 1,026 yards in 15 starts as a rookie. The 6-foot-6, 245-pounder was named to the Pro Bowl last season and tight ends coach Justin Peelle believes Pitts’ offseason work will help him take another step forward this season.
“I think just the experience and the little details of everything.” Peelle said on how Pitts can improve. “He has a better understanding of the offense now having gone through it once. Now, he’s hearing it again. Those things, I think will just naturally happen.”
Quarterback Feleipe Franks moved to tight end during the offseason and a pair of former Tennessee Titans -- Anthony Firkser and Parker Hesse -- are also lining up at tight end. The team added another tight end in the draft -- 6-foot-7 John FitzPatrick of the national champion Georgia Bulldogs.
“He’s a big man,” Peelle said of FitzPatrick. “We had him at the local day and when he walked in…I saw his numbers, but he is a big man. Good kid. A smart kid. He asks all of the right questions. He wants to know the answers.”
As for the wide receivers, the Falcons selected London with the eighth overall pick in the 2022 draft. He played three seasons for USC and caught 160 passes for 2,153 yards and 15 touchdowns over 27 games, which included 23 starts.
With Calvin Ridley suspended indefinitely for gambling on NFL games, the Falcons have an opening at the position.
Edwards, who played at South Carolina, was acquired in a trade with the Raiders along with a conditional seventh-round pick. The Falcons gave up their fifth-round pick in the 2023 draft.
In addition to London and Edwards, the Falcons re-signed Cordarrelle Patterson, who’ll also play some running back and Olamide Zaccheaus. London will also spend some time in the slot.
“I think fantasy football has gotten everyone obsessed with wide receiver one and wide receiver two, hey look, if you’re out there and you’re a starter for us, you’re expected to make plays,” Smith said. “But we’re not going to sit there and just say, hey, it naturally works (itself) out when a guy is a productive receiver.”
Edwards, who’s 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds, was taken in the third-round (81st overall) in the 2020 draft by the Raiders.
Edwards made 15 starts and played in 28 games. He caught 45 passes for 764 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’re excited about Drake,” Smith said. “We’re excited about Bryan Edwards. We’re excited about the development of some of these young guys like Frank Darby. We added Auden Tate, Damiere Byrd....We signed Geronimo Allison. He’s a vet. He’ll have every chance to compete.”
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.