Not going to lie. I love this pick. I love it because it shows that the Falcons have hired men who aren’t afraid to dare. I love it because it makes the Falcons better today than they’ve been in a while. They have Kyle Pitts. Nobody else does. Their head coach is a former offensive coordinator who’s going to call plays here; by the time Pitts first dons shoulder pads in Flowery Branch, Smith’s playbook will have doubled in size.
Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, center, runs for a touchdown on a 52-yard pass play past Idaho defensive back Jordan Grabski (21) and defensive back Denzal Brantley (4) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
This isn’t the kind of pick made by men worried about their jobs. This is a pick made by youngish men – add their ages together and you get Arthur Blank’s age – who were more than filling to flout precedence. Ten years from now, we could be sitting around saying, “You mean to tell me there were THREE teams that passed on Kyle Pitts?”
Since Fontenot and Smith were hired, we’ve wondered what they thought of their inherited roster. Now we know. The Falcons’ new stewards see this as a team that underperformed under the previous administration, a team that already has a quarterback capable of taking them to the Super Bowl. They’ve just handed that quarterback an asset the likes of which he hasn’t had, and Ryan has had his share of big-time pass-catchers. Tony Gonzalez is one of the greatest tight ends ever, but he couldn’t run like Kyle Pitts.
Will there come a time when the Falcons need to find Ryan’s successor? Sure there will. But maybe not with the fourth pick of a draft that saw quarterbacks become Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Do you replace the best player in Falcons annals with the fourth-best member of the QB class of ’21? Does a new regime exercise its first draft pick by taking a player who won’t play for a while as long as Ryan remains hale and hearty? (As we know, the man almost never gets hurt.) Fontenot/Smith answered those questions with a resounding “no.” Three cheers for these two men.
As much as we on the periphery see the draft as an entity unto itself, it isn’t. The guys you pick must fit your needs, and your needs aren’t necessarily the same as everyone else’s. What player in this draft could fit into a Ryan-controlled offense and give it the greatest lift? Kyle Pitts. There are those who considered him the best player available after Trevor Lawrence. There are some who considered Pitts the best player available, period. The Falcons got him with the No. 4 pick. That’s not a reach. That’s value-shopping.
What’s impressive about Fontenot is that, three months on the job, he already sees – as is said of the best quarterbacks – the whole field. He wasn’t drafting in a vacuum. He was handed Ryan, whom this former Saints employee had seen up close twice a year for 13 years. Smith did great work in Tennessee with Ryan Tannehill, who’s pretty good but who isn’t Matt Ryan. For the Falcons, the addition of Pitts is a meshing of something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. (The Florida Gators wear a bit of blue, do they not?)
Enough gushing, at least for tonight. I love this pick. I love that Fontenot and Smith felt empowered enough to make it. In the wake of 28-3, trusting the Falcons to do the right thing became difficult. Here’s to report that this renowned grump has again begun to believe.