2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Pat Freiermuth (Fantasy Football)
This detailed player profile piece about Pat Freiermuth, the rookie TE out of Penn State, is the latest installment in the 2021 rookie scouting profile series here on the site. Be sure to get caught up on all of our rookie breakdowns, including some really interesting pieces on Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase, and Travis Etienne.
While Kyle Pitts is the unquestioned TE1 in this rookie class, Pat Freiermuth is a strong “consolation prize” in the second round of rookie drafts. If it weren’t for Kyle Pitts dominating the rookie hype, Freiermuth would likely be getting a lot of buzz. Let’s dive into his college production profile, what he looks like on tape, and then identify how he projects for fantasy football moving forward.
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2021 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the brand-new UDK+ for 2021.
College Production Profile
|Games||Targets||Receptions||Catch Rate||Receiving Yards||Receiving TDs|
When looking at Freiermuth’s production profile, it’s important to add context, because on the surface it looks like 2020 was a horrific season for the tight end. The reality is it was a lost season for the entire Penn State offense. They were a preseason top-15 ranked team and ended up finishing with a 4-5 record after an 0-5 start amid a QB change as well as multiple Covid-19 opt-outs. It’s really difficult to put much stock into Freiermuth’s final season at Happy Valley given these factors. However, it is worth pointing out that prior to Freiermuth’s shoulder injury, he led the country in receptions per game at the TE position, good for a 27% target share.
On top of the changes surrounding the team, Freiermuth also had his 2020 season cut short thanks to a shoulder injury that ended up requiring surgery. I struggled to find the specific details regarding his surgery but in this article, Freiermuth indicated he was told his recovery would take about 4-6 months. While we should always take a player’s prognosis of himself with a grain of salt, it at least provides some context into what Freiemuth’s first offseason as a rookie might look like.
Okay, back to the numbers, particularly in 2018 and 2019. Freiermuth stepped on campus at Penn State and immediately produced, catching eight TD passes as a true freshman in a Power 5 conference in the Big Ten. His production in and around the end zone continued in 2019 in a breakout season as a sophomore in which he tallied seven TD receptions and caught over 70% of his targets, helping him achieve a breakout age of 19.9 per the Rookie Production Profiles in the Ultimate Draft Kit. Freiermuth owns the Penn State receiving TD record for a tight end, ahead of former Penn State greats, Mike Gesicki, Andrew Quarless, and Mickey Shuler.
Prior to entering the 2020 season, the hype was there for Freiermuth as he was named to the AP Preseason First Team All-American team and was added to the Mackey Award (best TE in the country) and Biletnikoff Award (best receiver in the country) watch lists.
|Height||Weight||40-Yard Dash (HS)||20-Yard Shuttle (HS)||Vertical Jump (HS)||247Sports|
|6’5″||258 lbs.||4.95 sec||4.44 sec||28.3 inches||4-star recruit|
Pat Freiermuth moves well for a tight end of his size, which I think is evident by the fact that he was able to play multiple positions as a high school player. The Massachusetts native was named an All-American linebacker in high school, and he also ran for over 200 yards and seven TDs as a high school senior. Simply put, Freiermuth is athletic enough to succeed in the intermediate area of the field – more on that soon when we get to the TE’s film breakdown.
At 6’5″ and over 250 lbs., Freiermuth has the build to succeed at the NFL level. Per the Production Profiles in the 2021 Ultimate Draft Kit, Freiermuth’s size is pretty much right where it should be when you compare it to the NFL TE1 college average – 6’5″ and 252 lbs. Coming out of high school, he ran a 4.95 40-yard dash, which is plenty fast for an NFL tight end. And, when you consider how well Penn State produces athletes who break the NFL Combine year after year, it’s reasonable to expect that if Pat Freiermuth does participate in Penn State’s pro day, we’ll see him improve his speed and agility numbers compared to high school. If you recall, Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki, and Chris Godwin all exceeded expectations in Indianapolis.
What’s On Tape
Games Viewed: Ohio State (2019), Michigan State (2019), Minnesota (2019), Nebraska (2020), Indiana (2020), Maryland (2020)
1. Pat Freiermuth dominates the intermediate area of the field and knows how to create separation with subtle head fakes and quick, decisive cuts.
In the clip below, Freiermuth does a great job of setting up the defender with a nice little hesitation move, dips his shoulder to the outside, and then accelerates into the middle of the field to create an easy throw for his QB. The Penn State TE lacks elite speed, but he’s smart and knows how to use subtle changes in body angle and position in order to get open in the short to intermediate areas of the field. This shows up over and over again on tape for Freiermuth, which should help him rack up PPR points in fantasy football.
2. Freiermuth’s above-average run blocking when lined up in line should help him develop into a three-down TE at the NFL level.
Let’s start with what everyone loves in fantasy football – run blocking! Obviously we want our tight ends in fantasy to be running routes, and Freiermuth can do that, but some NFL coaches love the “old school” approach to the tight end position. Being a good run-blocking tight end should help Freiermuth get on the field on all three downs and of course, playing time is huge for production in our game. On film, Freiermuth is able to match up well with defensive ends and linebackers in the run blocking game. He rarely looks overwhelmed or mismatched in run blocking. Plus, he’s athletic enough to get to the second level to take a corner or safety out of the play.
3. Pat Freiermuth knows how to sit down in zone coverage to create easy throws for his QB.
What’s more exciting than an eight-yard reception for a first down? Well, it depends who you ask. For us fantasy nuts, that sounds sort of boring, but that’s going to have his NFL coaches clapping on the sidelines. Freiermuth knows exactly how to manipulate zone coverage to sit down in a pocket of space and create lay up throws for his QB. This seems so simple, but it’s going to bode well for Freiermuth’s ability to gain the trust of his coaches at the NFL level. In terms of fantasy, I could see Freiermuth developing into a PPR TE who piles up 4-8 receptions for 50+ yards most weeks thanks to his ability to create lay-up throws for his QB.
What’s Not on Tape
1. There is an occasional big play on tape, but that really only happened in broken coverage. Freiermuth isn’t going to produce big chunk plays very often.
Freiermuth is athletic enough to succeed in the intermediate passing game, but he likely isn’t going to run away from defenders, especially at the NFL level. In the games I watched, the only time Freiermuth got loose in the secondary was via a blown assignment. If you’re looking for a rookie tight who’s going to consistently get 20+ yards downfield to make a big play, it’s likely not going to be the rookie from Penn State. In 2020, 19 of Freiermuth’s 31 targets were thrown less than 10 yards down the field.
2. Freiermuth doesn’t break tackles with agility or ‘make you miss’ ability.
Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. Freiermuth broke 12 tackles on 66 receptions in his final two seasons at Penn State, per PFF. But, the way he does is via sheer force and strength. He was a mismatch against college linebackers and could routinely lower his shoulder to pick up a few extra yards, but I’m not sure how well that will work at the NFL level as defenders tend to be more sound tacklers and obviously, much stronger.
2021 Fantasy Outlook
It’s always difficult for a rookie tight end to be relevant for fantasy football in their first season in the NFL, so Freiermuth is likely a player who won’t be drafted in July or August in redraft leagues. If I’m betting on one of the rookie tight ends in the 2021 class to produce early in their career, it’s certainly Kyle Pitts. However, that doesn’t mean Freiermuth won’t have value in dynasty leagues, especially given that tight ends usually take multiple years to develop at the NFL level.
Freiermuth projects as a reliable pass-catching tight end at the next level who can win in the short-to-intermediate area of the field and around the goal line. In fantasy football, that’s really all we want from our tight ends as we know the scoring system heavily favors tight ends who can score given the lack of elite options. However, he lacks the top-end athleticism to be a game-breaker. Even still, he projects to be a day two NFL Draft selection, which should give him plenty of draft capital to sit behind a starter in year one and learn the position as he prepares for a potential 2022 breakout. Look for Freiermuth to be available in the late second or early third round of rookie mock drafts.