Pat Freiermuth is coming off a surprisingly strong rookie campaign. He has all the makings of a quality fantasy tight end. Freiermuth will undoubtedly take a step forward in his sophomore season. The question is, how big of a step? How should dynasty fantasy football managers value Freiermuth in 2022 and beyond?
Pat Freiermuth’s dynasty profile for 2022
Evaluating tight ends is always a bit trickier than running backs and wide receivers. When it comes to tight ends, it’s not enough for a player to be one of the best at his position — he also has to be a difference-maker.
Travis Kelce has been the dynasty TE1 for the last half-decade. But being the best doesn’t mean the same thing every season. From 2018-2020, Kelce finished as the overall TE1 in fantasy points per game (minimum eight games played). He averaged 18.4 ppg in 2018, 15.9 in 2019, and 20.9 in 2020. Those are all very different seasons. You can’t just say Kelce was the best tight end in fantasy and convey how well he performed.
As a rookie, Freiermuth was eased into action. This came as no surprise — the tight end position is one of the most difficult to learn at the NFL level. Freiermuth initially split snaps with Eric Ebron. It’s interesting to note Freiermuth actually out-snapped Ebron in Week 1, but the two were sharing time.
Freiermuth enters the 2022 season as the Steelers’ clear starting tight end. He will see a significantly higher snap share than he did as a rookie and just be a better overall player. What does this mean for Freiermuth’s fantasy value, and how should dynasty managers view him going forward?
Fantasy projection for Freiermuth
Freiermuth averaged 9.5 ppg as a rookie, finishing as the TE16. While he wasn’t a super valuable fantasy asset, his performance was encouraging. It was actually one of the better rookie tight end seasons of all time.
Freiermuth did this on just a 62% snap share, 32nd among tight ends. His 13% target share was 23rd. One reason I’m optimistic about Freiermuth taking a big step forward this season is his red-zone targeting. Despite his limited usage, Freiermuth led all tight ends in red-zone targets.
The Steelers are turning to Mitch Trubisky after 18 years of Ben Roethlisberger. It’s hard to imagine this team will be as pass-heavy as last season, where Big Ben attempted 605 passes. At the same time, Trubisky can’t possibly be less efficient than Roethlisberger.
Can he replicate the touchdown total from 2021?
Freiermuth will never be a downfield threat. He’s 6’5”, 251 lbs, and ran a 4.77 40 time. His fantasy value will always stem from touchdowns. At tight end, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Other than the elite tight ends, unless your tight end scores, he’s probably only getting you 5-7 fantasy points. Due to his nose for the end zone, Freiermuth hit double-digit fantasy points in eight games last season.
The Steelers only scored 33 touchdowns in 2021. I’m confident they will not be any worse under Trubisky. They’ll probably be better. Freiermuth actually has a good shot at improving upon the 7 TDs he scored as a rookie.
Last season, Freiermuth already showed what he can do in a feature role. He played exactly eight games with and without Ebron. With Ebron, he averaged 7.5 ppg. Without Ebron, he averaged 11.9 ppg. That’s about where I expect Freiermuth to be this season. He’ll have plenty of weeks where he doesn’t score and disappoints fantasy managers. But I think he can score 10 touchdowns this season, and they’ll likely all be on different weeks. Consider Freiermuth a legitimate top-five dark horse in 2022.
What is Freiermuth’s future beyond 2022?
Freiermuth is entering just his second NFL season. He’ll be 24 years old in October. This is a player who is still getting better. He’s at least a couple of years away from his prime.
The Steelers are looking for their long-term answer at quarterback. It may end up being Trubisky, but probably not. Dynasty managers should not concern themselves with the situation at this point. Freiermuth is just too young and too talented. The Steelers have a competent front office. They will figure it out quicker than most teams would in their position.
What can fantasy managers expect from Freiermuth?
On a team that features an incredibly gifted WR1 in Diontae Johnson, a downfield specialist in Chase Claypool, and a strong receiving back in Najee Harris, it’s difficult to see Freiermuth’s target share increasing too much.
One usage comparison that stood out to me was how the Dallas Cowboys used Dalton Schultz. He saw a 16.4% target share last season. I could see Freiermuth getting bumped up to the 15-16% range, which will be important considering an expected drop in pass attempts.
I’m expecting something in the range of 85-90 targets, a 75% catch rate, and 8-10 touchdowns. That puts him around 10 ppg. If the Steelers throw more than I expect, Freiermuth could push 11-12 ppg in a best-case scenario.
Dynasty managers with Freiermuth should be elated at rostering a young, talented tight end that’s only getting better. Of course, every player can be traded at the right price, but unless someone is willing to overpay, Freiermuth’s best value is probably on your dynasty roster in 2022.