Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts has a chance to break a 60-year-old NFL record in the final three weeks of the season.
That record is the most receiving yards by a rookie tight end in a season, set by Chicago’s Mike Ditka in 1961. Ditka set the record with 1,076 receiving yards in 1961, and no one has come within even 100 yards of it in six decades since.
But Pitts is getting close. Through 14 games, Pitts has 847 receiving yards, which is already the fifth-most for a rookie tight end in NFL history. With three more games to go, Pitts is on pace to finish this season with 1,029 yards, which would move him into second place all time, behind only Ditka. If Pitts can pick up the pace just a little bit, he can break Ditka’s record.
It’s worth noting that Ditka set the record in a 14-game season, while Pitts is hoping to break it in 17 games. It’s also worth noting that Pitts is playing in an era that makes life easier for tight ends and receivers: This year NFL teams are averaging 231.8 passing yards per game; in 1961 NFL teams averaged 180.5 passing yards per game.
So Ditka’s rookie season remains the gold standard for rookie tight ends. But it speaks well for Pitts that he’s coming close to a record that has stood for so long.