The Atlanta Falcons have been on a downward slide ever since the famous 28-3 disaster in the Super Bowl. They’ve kept largely the same offensive core around, but there is some major change heading into the 2021 season. When the NFL Draft began, many were unsure what path the Falcons were taking. Bring in the replacement for Matt Ryan, or give him an elite weapon to replace Julio Jones?

Ultimately the Falcons decided to take an offensive weapon. Kyle Pitts was the 4th overall pick in the draft and for good reason. He’s a 6’6″ athletic freak at tight end and should be taking on a huge role with Julio Jones now traded to Tennessee. For that reason, Kyle Pitts is the Atlanta Falcons X-Factor for 2021 rather than Matt Ryan. They will need a big season from him in order to be any type of contender this season.

Falcons X-Factor: Kyle Pitts

If Atlanta wants to compete in a division with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers then they’re going to need a lot of help from unexpected places. Matt Ryan is going to have to step up and become the Matt Ryan of old, but in order to do that he’s going to need help on offense. With Julio Jones no longer in the mix, it’s time for Kyle Pitts to step up. He will be helped by offensive weapons Calvin Ridley, Russel Gage, Mike Davis, and Hayden Hurst. Ryan may no longer be the player he once was, but the 36-year-old quarterback can still go for 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns.

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When the Falcons opted to go with Pitts over a quarterback prospect like Justin Fields, it solidified their vision for 2021. Get back to the playoffs. Atlanta may think they have a roster to get back to the playoffs, but the odds certainly don’t. Wherever you look, Atlanta is hovering right around seven wins for this upcoming season.

Kyle Pitts is often pegged at around 800 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns on betting sites. 800 yards would’ve been third among tight ends last season and seven touchdowns would’ve been tied for sixth. Not bad for a rookie, but the Falcons need some big-time production. With Jones gone,  Ridley is a viable replacement as an elite receiving threat for Ryan to trust, but who slots in as the new number two alongside Ridley? Pitts has many years to develop and turn into an elite tight end, but Ryan isn’t getting any younger.

Perhaps the plan was to take the Ryan replacement initially in the draft but Pitts was too good of a prospect to pass up. Now the Falcons enter the 2021 season with Calvin Ridley, an elite wide receiver and Kyle Pitts, someone with the potential perhaps beyond Darren Waller. If things break right for Atlanta this season it’s because Kyle Pitts is able to be a true number two receiving threat for Matt Ryan. A Justin Jefferson type of breakout year might be asking for too much, but this Falcons roster needs exactly that in order to get back in the playoffs.