Evaluating tight ends and their transition to the NFL is always a fun process. Compared to other skill positions, the collegiate stat lines can be harder to evaluate as many programs don’t rely on tight ends as the main cog in their passing games. The tight ends that garner the ink from the draft community and the hype in fantasy football tend to be the athletic marvels (whispers Kyle Pitts). There’s something to be said for tight ends that check numerous boxes analytically that can also transition to the NFL as above average but not eye-popping receivers. This leads us to Pat Freiermuth, who likely won’t find his name called on Day 1, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a top-shelf talent at the position in this NFL Draft class.

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Pat Freiermuth came on strong in 2020

Freiermuth arrived at Penn State as a four-star prospect, per 247sports. Freiermuth started slow during his first two seasons at Penn State in the receiving department. In 2018-2019, he ranked 44th (among 72 tight ends with 25 or more targets) and 29th (among 89 tight ends with 25 or more targets) in yards per route run. It wasn’t until 2020 that he ascended to the top of the heap in this metric. Last season, he ranked 10th (2.33) in yards per route run among 58 tight ends with 25 or more targets. Penn State also utilized him more as a slot receiver than in previous seasons. In 2020, Freiermuth operated out of the slot on 51.9% of his snaps, which was a massive increase compared to the 37.5% and 35.9% marks the two years prior. Last seasons’ counting stats don’t jump off the page sadly because his season was cut short after a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Strengths: Pat Freiermuth is a two-way TE

  • Strong hands
  • Red-zone prowess
  • Run blocking

Pat Freiermuth will never be confused with Travis Kelce or George Kittle as an athletic marvel at the position, but he will be a receiving threat at the next level. Freiermuth displays the athletic ability to sky over slot corners and outrun linebackers with ease. He won’t pull away from corners in the open field and break off 60-yard receptions, but as a trusted underneath weapon, he’ll quickly earn the trust of an NFL quarterback. Freiermuth’s game film is littered with tough catches in traffic. Even during an abbreviated season in 2020, he ranked eighth in contested catches (8). Freiermuth might not possess a Kyle Pitts ceiling, but he could easily walk into multiple high-volume receiving seasons like Zach Ertz.

Freiermuth has the size and short-area quickness to be a red-zone weapon in the NFL from Day 1. The tired cliche of tight ends with a basketball background holds here, as he played basketball and lettered in all four years of high school. During his three seasons at Penn State, 37.5% of his receiving touchdowns came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Touchdowns are the lifeblood of tight ends for fantasy football, and Freiermuth has the ability to stack them in the NFL.

In high school, Freiermuth was an all-state linebacker. That mean streak and toughness show up during his run blocking. There are multiple reps on game film where he buries an incoming corner or functions as the lead blocker in the Penn State run game. Over the last two seasons, Freiermuth was ranked 40th and 15th in run blocking among 199 tight ends, per PFF.

Weaknesses: Pat Freiermuth lacks elite athleticism

  • Lack elite athleticism
  • Sustaining blocks

As discussed previously, Freiermuth won’t be confused with the athletic superhumans of the NFL at the position. This is not a knock on his game or his standing as a prospect, but players like Pitts can be flexed out wide, and this is not part of Freiermuth’s game. He’ll function quite well as a zone-busting volume threat in the NFL, but we won’t see highlight clips of him juking All-Pro corners in the open field.

Friermuth is ruthless in the run blocking department, but his ability to sustain blocks, especially in pass protection, could use more refinement. Considering what he has shown in the run game, this is something that can likely be coached up, but it’s worth noting here. His footwork and pop when engaging oncoming rushers will be the starting points for the next coaching staff.

Where will Pat Freiermuth land in the NFL Draft?

  • New York Jets: The Jets' new coaching staff has seen the difference a two-way tight end can make for an offense up close (insert George Kittle reference). While Freiermuth isn’t on that same level in terms of raw talent, he’s no slouch either. The new regime is not married to holdover Christopher Herndon.
  • Tennessee Titans: I don’t want to break up the Anthony Firkser love fest prematurely, but the Titans would love to have a player like Freiermuth. The Titans led the NFL last season in 12 personnel (35%). With former tight ends coach Todd Downing now the offensive coordinator, that’s likely to repeat.