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ESPN Rookie Rankings: Falcons TE Kyle Pitts and One That Got Away

Where is Kyle Pitts on ESPN's Rookie Rankings, and which player on this list got away from the Atlanta Falcons?

The Atlanta Falcons made Kyle Pitts the highest drafted tight end in history when they took him with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.

He entered the league with huge expectations, and if anything, he met or even exceeded them on his way to setting the Falcons rookie receiving yards record.

Jeff Legwold of ESPN ranked the Top 10 rookies in a loaded 2021 draft class, and he placed Pitts sixth on his list.

Some will point to the lone touchdown, but talk to personnel executives around the league, and you get a lot of no-doubt assessments of his play. Many actually have Pitts above Chase here because of the upside and skill set. Pitts consistently wins in man coverage, even when defensive coordinators put a cornerback across from him, and he can work from all over the formation, both in tight and out wide. He is just the second rookie tight end in league history to top 1,000 yards, as his 1,026 receiving yards sit right behind Mike Ditka's 60-year-old NFL-record 1,076 yards. - Jeff Legwold

ESPN Rookie Rankings

1) Micah Parsons, OLB/DE, Dallas Cowboys
2) Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
3) Rashawn Slater, OT, LA Chargers
4) Creed Humphrey, C, Kansas City Chiefs
5) Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
6) Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
7) Pat Surtain, CB, Denver Broncos
8) Jaylen Waddle, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
9) Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Cleveland Browns
10) Jevon Holland, S, Miami Dolphins

Micah Parsons Dallas Cowboys Defensive Player of the Year
Mac Jones
Rashawn Slater
Creed Humphrey
JaMarr Chase
Kyle Pitts Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

All lists like this are subjective, and the only player that looks out of place above Pitts is Jones at No. 2.

Parsons could actually win NFL Defensive Player of the Year, not just Rookie of the Year.

Slater was Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) eighth-rated tackle in the entire NFL.

Humphrey was PFF’s No. 1 center by some distance. 

Chase was fourth in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,466, a new rookie record.

Jones was a middle of the pack quarterback on a good team. 

Jones was 15th in passing efficiency, 13th in passing yards, 14th in touchdown passes, and he was tied for ninth for most interceptions thrown.

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It’s no coincidence that the best performing rookie quarterback of the five taken in the first round was taken last. Jones went to the best team. A team that also surrounded him with $163 million in free agents in the offseason.

Being an average quarterback on any team, good or bad, in a player’s first year is notable, but the rest of the players on this list were exceptional. 

Not just exceptional for rookies, but exceptional.

Average shouldn’t trump exceptional… even at quarterback.

One name on the list that brings a slight twinge of pain to Falcons fans is No. 10 Jevon Holland. 

The Falcons were in desperate need of a safety going into the draft after having lost starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen to free agency. 

When Atlanta's pick was due in the second round, the Falcons traded down, swapping picks with the Denver Broncos moving from pick 36 to pick 40.

The Broncos selected burgeoning star running back Javonte Williams with the Falcons pick, and the very next pick was Holland to the Dolphins. 

Holland finished fourth on PFF’s list of 94 safeties while Falcons safeties Erik Harris(66), Duron Harmon (69), and Jaylinn Hawkins(71) didn’t fare as well.

The Falcons used the Broncos’ pick in the second round to get their safety Richie Grant. Grant got off to a slow start and didn’t have enough defensive snaps to qualify among PFF’s 94 safeties.

Atlanta got the Broncos’ fourth-round pick in exchange for dropping from 36 to 40, and they used it to select offensive lineman Drew Dalman. Dalman was overwhelmed at times this year at guard and center, but like Grant, the Falcons have higher hopes for him in year two.

The Falcons have four picks of the top 75 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft in April. They’ll hope they can strike gold in the first round again with their No. 8 pick, and maybe pick up a future star like Humphrey, Holland, and Owusu-Koramoah in the later rounds.

Atlanta Falcons 2022 Draft Picks

No. 8 - 1st Round
No. 42 - 2nd Round
No. 58 - 2nd Round (From Titans)
No. 74 - 3rd Round
No. 110 - 4th Round
No. 149 - 5th Round
No. 189 - 6th Round

No. 213 - 7th Round