Aug 27, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) shown on the bench during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Smith on Kyle Pitts’ lack of targets: ‘Not fantasy football’

For the second week in a row to start the season, the Atlanta Falcons lost.

And for the second week in a row, Kyle Pitts’ line in the box score read two receptions for 19 yards.

The fourth overall pick in the 2021 draft has gotten off to a disappointing start, though it’s not for a lack of trying. Atlanta only targeted Pitts three times in Sunday’s 31-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams after throwing seven passes his way in Week 1.

Pitts was seen as a pass-catching phenom coming out of Florida and was the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history. But head coach Arthur Smith snubbed a question about Pitts’ lack of targets to begin the year.

“Kyle is a huge part of our offense,” Smith said. “You just have to take it with context. Other guys made plays.

“It’s not fantasy football. We’re just trying to win. We will continue to look at everything and try to get better.”

Fantasy managers would prefer to see the version of Pitts from 2021, who caught 68 passes (on 110 targets) for 1,026 yards and one touchdown on his way to a Pro Bowl selection.

But after he found early success in the NFL, and opposing coaches and defensive coordinators figure to be doing all they can to nullify Pitts’ impact.

Marcus Mariota instead turned to rookie wide receiver Drake London, also a first-round pick, who hauled in eight catches on 12 targets for 86 yards and a touchdown Sunday.

The Falcons trailed 28-3 early in the third quarter before pushing back with 17 fourth-quarter points to make it close. But Atlanta gained just 261 yards of total offense and was 3-for-10 on third downs.

Atlanta was quiet Monday, other than to announce the signing of practice squad defensive lineman Abdullah Anderson to the active roster.

The Falcons elevated him from the practice squad before the Rams game and he made two tackles on 11 snaps, including one tackle for a loss. That was enough to earn himself a full-time spot on the active roster for now.

Anderson is on his fourth team in four NFL seasons. He saw 10 games over the past three years with the Chicago Bears (2019), Minnesota Vikings (2020) and Green Bay Packers (2021), recording one sack.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) warms-up before their game against the Detroit Lions at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons’ Kyle Pitts first rookie TE since ’61 with 1,000 yards

After 60 years, Mike Ditka finally has some company.

On Sunday, Kyle Pitts of the Atlanta Falcons became just the second rookie tight end in NFL history to tally 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

Pitts, who entered the Week 17 game against the host Buffalo Bills with 949 yards, reached the milestone with a 61-yard reception in the second quarter.

With that play, the 21-year-old Pitts also broke the Atlanta rookie record of 959 receiving yards set by Julio Jones in 2011.

Ditka racked up 1,076 yards in 14 games for the Chicago Bears in 1961. He finished his Hall of Fame playing career with 5,812 receiving yards and later coached the Bears to a victory in Super Bowl XX.

–Field Level Media

Jun 9, 2021; Flowery Branch, Georgia, USA;  Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) catches a pass during mandatory minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Complex. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons sign No. 4 overall pick TE Kyle Pitts

The Atlanta Falcons signed first-round draft pick Kyle Pitts to a four-year rookie contract on Tuesday.

Pitts will receive a $32.9 million deal with a signing bonus of approximately $21 million, per the NFL Network. The Falcons will also have a fifth-year option on the former Florida tight end, selected with the fourth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Falcons have signed all nine of their draft picks.

Pitts, 20, recorded 43 receptions for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games with the Gators last season. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Pitts earned unanimous first-team All-America honors and the Mackey Award, presented to college football’s most outstanding tight end.

Pitts had 100 catches for 1,492 yards and 18 scores in 32 career games with Florida.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst (81) celebrates after scoring during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Falcons won’t pick up TE Hayden Hurst’s option

The Atlanta Falcons won’t pick up the fifth-year option of tight end Hayden Hurst, multiple outlets reported Monday.

Hurst, the No. 25 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens, will become a free agent after the season. The Falcons acquired Hurst and a fourth-round pick in a trade last March, sending 2020 second- and fifth-round draft picks to the Ravens.

The Falcons selected Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 draft last week.

Hurst, 27, played in 16 games (nine starts) last season and recorded career highs in receptions (56), yards (571) and touchdowns (six).

In 44 games over three NFL seasons, Hurst has 99 catches for 1,083 yards and nine scores.

Hurst would have earned nearly $5.5 million in 2022 had his option been picked up, per Over the Cap.

–Field Level Media

Nov 28, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts (84) scores a touchdown during a football game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. Nov. 28, 2020.   Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK

Florida TE Pitts declares for 2021 NFL Draft

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts declared for the 2021 NFL Draft on Sunday and will not participate in a Gators’ bowl game.

Widely projected as a high first-round pick, the 6-foot-6, 246-pound junior from Philadelphia caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games this season for Florida (8-3).

In a lengthy statement posted on social media, Pitts thanks the Florida coaches, support staff and teammates.

“I know it is time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life,” he wrote. “After much prayer and consideration and talking with my family, I will forego my senior season and enter the 2021 NFL Draft and will not be playing in the bowl game. I am eager to pursue my dreams of playing in the NFL, but I will always be a Gator.”

Pitts began the season with eight catches for 170 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-35 win at Ole Miss on Sept. 26. He ended the campaign with seven receptions for 129 yards and a score in the Gators’ 52-46 loss to top-ranked Alabama in Saturday’s SEC championship game.

A semifinalist for the John Mackey Award this season, Pitts finishes his time in Gainesville with 100 receptions for 1,492 yards and 18 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Nov 9, 2019; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts (84) celebrates as he scores a touchdown against the Vanderbilt Commodores  during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Gators TE Pitts (concussion) won’t play Saturday

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts is still dealing with a concussion and will not play Saturday night when the No. 6 Gators host Arkansas, head coach Dan Mullen confirmed.

Pitts was hit in the head by Georgia safety Lewis Cine in the second quarter of last week’s 44-28 victory and did not return. Cine was ejected for targeting.

Mullen told ESPN that Pitts will likely miss next week’s game at Vanderbilt, too.

Pitts, a 6-foot-6, 246-pound junior from Philadelphia, is ranked No. 7 overall in the 2021 NFL draft rankings by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

He has 24 catches for a team-high 414 yards with eight touchdowns, a single-season school record for a tight end, through five games for Florida (4-1, 4-1 SEC). Pitts caught eight passes for 170 yards and four scores in a season-opening 51-35 win at Ole Miss.

–Field Level Media