The Steelers added another player to their offensive skill group in Round 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft by selecting Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth. The two-way tight end, who has been nicknamed "Baby Gronk," would likely be getting more pre-draft buzz if it weren't for the fact that he's in the same class with Kyle Pitts. He's also not your typical new-age tight end prospect that we've seen with recent first-round picks like Noah Fant, Evan Engram and Eric Ebron in the sense that NFL offensive coordinators aren't likely to want to detach him from the line of scrimmage and use him as a big slot receiver. Freiermuth is a traditional inline Y tight end, but I would argue that in today's NFL, his ability to contribute as a two-way tight end (both as a blocker and receiver) makes him a unique prospect.
Freiermuth received nearly 20 scholarship offers as a four-star TE recruit (per 247Sports) after starring as a multi-position player coming out of Brooks School in Massachusetts back in 2018. He was an All-State high school linebacker who contributed as a receiver and rusher on the other side of the ball. He also joins Antonio Gates and the long list of tight ends with a basketball background -- he lettered all four years a forward on his high school basketball team.
We're breaking down everything you need to know about Freiermuth from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
Fantasy fit in Pittsburgh
Rookie tight ends don't typically make much of an impact in Fantasy Football in Year 1, but there are at least a few factors working in his favor. For starters, Freiermuth is arguably the best blocking tight end in this class. He's physical and he has the long frame to do it. The Steelers will love that and it will get him on the field earlier than a pass-first tight end who struggles with blocking at the point of attack. More snaps should mean more opportunities. Also, the Steelers were one of the pass-heaviest teams in the NFL last season, often using it as an extension of their run game.
Ahead of Freiermuth on the depth chart is only Eric Ebron. Although Ebron inherited a solid role for the Steelers in 2020, specifically in the red zone, he never carved out a full-time role in large part due to the fact that he continues to be a borderline liability as a blocker.
Freiermuth typically came off the board as the TE2 in Dynasty rookie redrafts prior to the start of the 2021 NFL Draft with the rare exception of when Brevin Jordan goes before him. In TE-premium leagues, you may see him come off the board as early as the beginning of Round 2. In standard leagues, he'll typically be selected in the early-third round range. Freiermuth is a better fit for NFL teams (due to his blocking) than he might be in Fantasy and he's not a preferred target of ours in anything but TE-premium formats.
- Blocking. His frame, strength at the point of attack and game film against strong EDGE players at the Big Ten level point to a player who can earn 90%+ snaps early in his career due to his ability to hold up at the point of attack as an inline tight end.
- Efficiency in the red zone. Freiermuth not only presented a go-to target for PSU QBs but he also converted the vast majority of his red zone opportunities.
- Play strength. He's the best TE class at the point of attack and will immediately be able to help running games that use power/gap and pin-pull concepts.
- Displays an excellent catch radius and provides QBs with a large throwing window.
- Very difficult to bring down in the open field and was a broken tackle machine in the Big Ten.
- Has proven he can operate as a key cog in the passing game -- was the primary target in the PSU passing game in 2020 and earned nearly a whopping 30% target share.
- Creativity as a route runner -- finds ways to get open with nuanced route running.
- Straight-line speed -- Freiermuth is what you would like to call a build-up speed prospect on vertical routes and that might be a generous assessment. Speed could be a limiting factor in his passing game upside as it translates to the next level.
- Opted out of 2020 with an undisclosed injury that required surgery and was later determined to be a shoulder issue. He was unable to recover in time to fully participate in PSU's March pro day.
- Fluidity and agility are lacking -- he didn't run the 3-cone drill at his pro day while recovering from offseason surgery, but it's difficult to imagine him excelling on this drill based on his film.
- Some concentration issues as a receiver led to a high number of dropped passes.
- Not as physical as a receiver in contested-catch situations as you'd like or expect to see based on his strength at the point of attack as a blocker.
|2020 v top 25||2||10||106||1||10.6|
|2019 v top 25||4||17||194||1||11.4|
Advanced stats to know
- Has broken 12 tackles over his last 66 receptions, per Pro Football Focus.
- 8 contested catches in 2020 -- tied for eighth-most among all TEs, per PFF.
- 8 dropped passes on 100 career "catchable" targets, per PFF's charting.
- Zero dropped passes on 30 career red zone targets at PSU, per PFF.
The popular NFL comparison you've likely seen already if you've studied Freiermuth is "Baby Gronk" but that's a little too rich for my blood. I see more of an early-career Jason Witten when I watch Freiermuth. While he may not be as nuanced or sure-handed of a receiver as Witten, he projects to be a more impactful blocker.