At No. 4, the Falcons should draft Kyle Pitts

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NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah offers his opinion on whether Atlanta should draft for now (TE Kyle Pitts) or future (QBs Trey Lance or Justin Fields).

Credit: AJC

I’ve tap-danced around this enough. The dancing stops now. Here’s the call from M. Bradley, which mightn’t be the same as the call Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith make tonight.

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The Falcons should draft Kyle Pitts, the tight end from Florida.

I know, I know. No tight end per se has ever been taken as high as No. 4. When the Packers drafted Ron Kramer of Michigan in 1957 with the fourth overall pick, he was designated as an “end.” (He’d also played defensive end in college. He played basketball, too. He was big-time.)

I’ve done the back-and-forth thing with the Falcons this year. I think they’re more in need of a rebuild than Fontenot and Smith seem to believe, but they’re the men being paid to make decisions. I also think we’ve underrated Smith’s part in this: The new head coach was an offensive coordinator; he plans to call plays here. That the Falcons restructured Matt Ryan’s contract, as opposed to trying to find a buyer for it, is an indication that Smith believes he can win with Ryan.

If you’re keeping your starting quarterback, should a team coming off three losing seasons invest its highest pick since 2008 in a quarterback who doesn’t figure to play much in 2021? On Wednesday, Fontenot said the Falcons wanted “an impact player” at No. 4. Then: “Whether it’s someone who’s going to sit or play right away, we want an impact.

The guess here is that he didn’t mean a deferred impact, which is what you’d get if you burn the No. 4 pick on what would, at least for the time being, a No. 2 quarterback. The guess is that the Falcons are looking for a player who would energize Smith’s offense the moment he sets foot in Flowery Branch. DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle could be that player. Ja’Marr Chase could be that player. But they’re wide receivers. The Falcons already have massively talented wideouts.

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New Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot addresses the pressure of making his first NFL draft selection and how it's a team-wide process.

Credit: Atlanta Falcons

They don’t, however, have a Kyle Pitts. Maybe nobody in the NFL has a Kyle Pitts. He’s taller than George Kittle or Zach Ertz. He’s faster than Travis Kelce or Gronk. We mention these names because these four have graced Super Bowls lately. That’s not a coincidence. It’s hard to cover a fast big man, defensive backs tending to be too small and linebackers too slow. There may never have been a guy as big (6-foot-6) and fast (4.44 in the 40) as Pitts.

A lot of people got credit for Florida’s breakthrough last fall: coach Dan Mullen, quarterback Kyle Trask, wideout Kadarius Toney. The key man was Pitts. After he got hurt in the second quarter against Georgia – Lewis Cine was ejected for an illegal hit – the Gators weren’t quite the same. Mullen sought to rest Pitts against LSU in the regular-season finale; Florida lost in the thrown-shoe game and was removed from national championship consideration even before it faced Alabama.

Pitts played in eight of Florida’s 12 games. He caught 12 touchdown passes. He averaged 17.9 yards per completion. By way of comparison, the Heisman Trophy-winning receiver Smith averaged 15.9 yards per catch. Pitts is the rare tight end who’s a true deep threat. Imagine him alongside Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Imagine those three working with Ryan.

The guess is that the Falcons also are imagining such a thing. You want somebody who’ll make Ryan better? Pitts is the guy. You want somebody who’ll leave an imprint on the 2021 Falcons? Pitts is the guy. He’d be my pick at No. 4. I’m thinking he’ll be the Falcons’ pick, too.

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