Kyle Pitts didn’t have to wait very long to hear his name called Thursday on the first night of the NFL draft.
The Philly native and Archbishop Wood product was the first non-quarterback taken, gobbled up by the Atlanta Falcons with the fourth overall pick.
Pitts became the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history. That honor previously was held by Riley Odoms (1972) and Mike Ditka (1961).
“This is something special,” Pitts said after his selection. “To be the highest (drafted tight end) ever, that’s something nobody can ever take from me. I appreciate it.”
There was speculation that the Falcons might follow Jacksonville, the New York Jets and San Francisco and take a quarterback. But rather than select a successor for soon-to-be-36-year-old Matt Ryan, they got him the draft’s top pass-catching weapon instead.
Pitts is joining a receiving corps that includes wide receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Despite the fact that the Falcons won only four games last season, Ryan finished fourth in passing yards and has thrown 87 touchdown passes in the last three years.
“I think I can add a lot to this offense,” Pitts said. “You have two great receivers on the outside and a veteran quarterback. I think I can learn a lot. I think I can have an impact early.”
Pitts was a two-time first-team All-SEC selection at Florida. He was the most productive tight end in school history.
Last year, he had 43 catches and 12 touchdowns and averaged 17.9 yards per catch. His 12 TD receptions were the most in the FBS.
The 6-6, 245-pound Pitts was used all over the formation by Gators coach Dan Mullen. He often lined up in the slot or out wide, but half of his snaps last season were as an inline tight end.
He has functional get-in-the-way blocking ability, but it’s his receiving skills that are the reason he was one of the top players in the draft.
He ran a 4.40 forty at Florida’s Pro Day, and on top of his speed, he has a huge catch radius. His 83 3/8-inch wingspan is the biggest of any tight end in the draft.
“He’s one of the best tight ends to come out in several years,” said NFL Network draft analyst Ben Fennell. “He’s a matchup weapon down the field and in the red zone. It’s tough to find a height-weight-speed comparison on paper. Maybe (Hall of Fame wide receiver) Calvin Johnson.
“Realistically, he’s probably a Darren Waller or Jared Cook type of player. But the way tight ends are used these days, he could be the best tight end we’ve ever seen.”
Fennell’s NFL Network partner Daniel Jeremiah, who had Pitts rated as the second best player in the draft behind only quarterback Trevor Lawrence, expects Pitts to have an immediate impact with the Falcons.
“You watch (Travis) Kelce and you’ll see Kelce run those pivot routes where he’s so efficient and doesn’t waste any steps,” he said. “You see the same thing with Pitts, and then he has a bigger catch radius to go up over the top of people and make plays.
“The defense can’t be right against him no matter what it does. You put big guys out there, he’s going to run away from them. You put small guys out there, he’s just going to pluck the ball off their heads. That, to me, is what makes him special.”
Pitts went to Abington High School as a freshman and sophomore. He played quarterback there. It wasn’t until he transferred to Archbishop Wood as a junior that he got a chance to play the position he really wanted to play -- tight end.
He helped Archbishop Wood win back-to-back PIAA 5A state titles and was a four-star recruit coming out of high school.