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When you draft a tight end No. 4 overall — the highest ever for that position — you want to make sure you’re getting him involved in the offense early and often. So far, that has been the case for the Atlanta Falcons and rookie phenom Kyle Pitts.
The Florida product isn’t your traditional, in-line blocking tight end. Like several of the league’s top stars at the position, Pitts can be used in a variety of ways — and new head coach Arthur Smith is tasked with finding creative avenues to do so.
The Falcons have been going through mandatory minicamp this week. According to Orlando Ledbetter with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Pitts is being “force-fed” the football in order to get him integrated into the offense leading up to the season.
“We are just trying to push and see what these guys can handle mentally and bring them along so they understand the schemes,” Smith said, via the AJC. “We’ve been doing a lot of individual development, so when we get to training camp, they are in good shape.”
Considering the team just traded longtime starting receiver Julio Jones, it’s probably wise to go ahead and prepare Pitts for a significant role, even in Year 1. Calvin Ridley will act as the team’s clear-cut No. 1 option in the passing game, but the No. 2 role is certainly up for grabs.
Russell Gage is an option there, but there aren’t any other viable candidates for that role on the roster. Struggles along the offensive line and in the run game have put added pressure on Matt Ryan and the passing game in recent years, but Atlanta doesn’t currently have the horses to counter that approach — well, unless Pitts is ready to dominate.
Players such as Gage, tight end Hayden Hurst and running back Mike Davis are perfect complementary pieces. If the Falcons can get dynamic play from Ridley and Pitts, then those guys should be able to handle the loads they’re given.
But that will all depend on Pitts stepping up in the opening week against the Philadelphia Eagles. From the sound of it, Atlanta is giving Pitts all he can handle right now to prepare him for that role.
Fantasy football participants should take note.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.