The team also seems bullish on Matt Ryan’s future.
It’s looking more and more like Florida tight end Kyle Pitts might be your next Atlanta Falcons draft pick.
The MMQB’s Albert Breer shared Monday morning in his latest 2021 NFL Draft dispatches that the noise is building for Pitts to indeed be who the Falcons take at Pick 4 when Thursday’s first round rolls around.
The drumbeat for Florida’s Kyle Pitts has grown louder here, and a good number of other clubs believe he’ll be the fourth pick. Three breadcrumbs we can leave for you here. One, GM Terry Fontenot has done some relationship-building with Matt Ryan that, really, seems to indicate the Falcons aren’t desperate to move on from him in nine months (the contract restructure sends a similar message), and Ryan has been a steady presence in the building the last few weeks. Two, word is the asking price to move up to No. 4 is high, which would indicate Atlanta might not be rushing to move the pick. And then there’s where Arthur Smith made his bones—coaching tight ends. For what it’s worth, the buzz around the NFL has been that Fontenot and Smith are comfortable going forward with Ryan, if that’s where Atlanta lands. But if the right quarterback falls here? Who knows?
With the reports and rumors swirling about a potential Julio Jones trade sometime later this offseason, it’d be a changing of the guard if all of this were to collide. It’s impossible for me as a fan to not want at least a season of Pitts and Jones on the field together in Arthur Smith’s system.
For the team to be doing some relationship-building with Ryan is telling, too, that a quarterback might not be a necessity this year, even if it’s a promising class.
Veteran NFL columnist Peter King also sent Pitts to Atlanta in his annual mock draft, adding this reasoning:
Golden spot of the draft. I like how thorough new GM Terry Fontenot has been about the pick and about his entire roster through this process. One of his new peers in the league told me building the roster has nothing to do with sentimentality for Fontenot and all to do with the current reality of the tight cap. Next year’s NFL cap also will likely be less than the 2019 cap figure of $198 million, and three Falcons (Matt Ryan, Grady Jarrett and Jake Matthews) are slated to count for half of it, insanely—about $96 million. Some great options here, obviously. The fourth quarterback available—who knows?—might be the second or third QB on Atlanta’s board, and I could see Fontenot and Arthur Smith ensuring the Falcons’ future there. I could see them taking a generational tight end, or their choice of three top wideout prospect.
What I think Atlanta would love, even at the expense of losing out on all of those possibilities, is a trade-down. It’s certainly possible, but I’m leaning against the reality of it. Denver going from nine to four makes the most sense—but Broncos GM George Paton comes from the draft-and-develop-and-acquire-picks school. The cost for New England, Washington or Chicago seems monstrous. Any of those could happen, but I think it’s more likely Fontenot sits and picks a great player.
ESPN’s Todd McShay, always a trusted voice this time of year, is another who is hearing the Falcons like Pitts, but it’s not the only thing he’s heard about the team.
I’m getting a strong reading that the Falcons like Florida tight end Kyle Pitts as the fourth selection. He’d of course be a game-changer in that offense, and the organization believes he has a great chance to be a Hall of Fame type of player.
The wild card? Some are wondering whether team owner Arthur Blank might step in and decide this pick has to be a QB. Atlanta might not be drafting this high again for a while, and it’s a chance to potentially set the team up at the position for the next decade. It’d be the macro line of thinking, versus the micro. But again, the preference I’m hearing is Pitts.
I also heard the Falcons are fielding calls regarding trading out and would consider moving down the board. If that becomes the case, would it be for someone like Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater or USC guard Alijah Vera-Tucker? Or could the Falcons trade back and see one of those top quarterbacks still available when they do end up picking? The value and opportunity might be too good to pass up at that point. In that scenario, Atlanta will have moved back and acquired other assets and still landed its QB of the future. That’s a pretty good outcome.
So, McShay is giving off the same educated shrug a lot of reporters and insiders are about what the Falcons might be doing. We’ve heard a lot of this in almost a carousel pattern, and it’s really not going to settle itself until we hear it read aloud on television.
Add CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones to the list of folks who thinks it’s Pitts, too. He mocked him to the team at four and added this insight.
Falcons have wanted it known they can do anything but trade up. I think trading down and collecting assets is in their best interest, but it seems it’ll be either a quarterback or Pitts. Atlanta will eventually move on from both Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and selecting Pitts makes the Jones departure more palatable.
Is it going to be Pitts? He might be the leader in the clubhouse right now, though you still cannot discount the possibility of a quarterback with the Falcons having done such extensive work evaluating the position. It’s clear that Pitts would be an intriguing fit in Atlanta’s offense with tight end-loving coach Arthur Smith likely finding a variety of uses for him, and the Falcons certainly have invested enough time in researching Pitts that he’s got to at least be a consideration for them.
With the way this offseason has gone, nobody really knows what’s going on in Flowery Branch. It seems less likely by the day that the team trades down per report,s which would make one of these four guys — Pitts, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance or Oregon tackle Penei Sewell — your clear favorites to land in Atlanta. It’s worth noting that in this horse race offseason, every possibility has seemed very likely or unlikely at some point, so the same three big possibilities (quarterback, best non-quarterback available, and trading down) remain.
We’ve got a few days to go, so we’ll see exactly where this franchise takes its highest draft pick in many years once the first round gets going Thursday night. Ultimately, even the biggest NFL insiders seem to be guessing to some extent.