While the world’s eyes are on Kyle Pitts, Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth should not be viewed as merely a consolation prize in upcoming fantasy football drafts. A polished route runner with above-average athleticism and incredible toughness, Freiermuth’s dynasty value has not caught up with his upside and talent.
Pat Freiermuth’s dynasty value for 2021
In life, timing is everything. Unfortunately for Freiermuth, he just happens to be in the same draft class as a truly generational talent with Kyle Pitts. Although Pitts is a unicorn who carries TE eligibility, Freiermuth is arguably a more well-rounded tight end. He is a big-bodied (6’5″ and 258 pounds) freight train that can split out and has a more diverse route tree than given credit. After all, there is a reason he received the nickname “Baby Gronk.”
Freiermuth moves well for a tight end of his size. While he is no Pitts or T.J. Hockenson, there is plenty of tricks in the repertoire he can pull from to find success.
There is no getting over the fact this is a bad tight end class as a whole for both the NFL and dynasty. The only two TEs we feel moderately good about are Pitts and Freiermuth. Anything beyond them is grasping at straws.
Look around the tight end landscape. How many do you feel comfortable rolling out each week on your fantasy team? Four? Maybe five? Where Pitts is my TE5 in dynasty, Freiermuth has the upside to become a top-eight player. Although it might take a few seasons and a bit of patience.
Sure, it will take a year or two to see this come to fruition, but the skills are there. We are also, or at least should be, conditioned not to expect Year 1 production. Due to the complete lack of talent at the position, I love Freiermuth’s value in dynasty rookie drafts. But that does not mean he has a clear path to stardom as landing with the Steelers presents its own unique set of challenges.
Pat Freiermuth heads to the Pittsburgh Steelers
Although the Steelers needed offensive line help baldy, the versatility of Pat Freiermuth was too much to overlook. Ben Roethlisberger has always loved targeting the position going back to Heath Miller. From 2005 to 2015, Miller averaged 56 receptions on 79 targets for 626 yards and 4 touchdowns.
After a few seasons where the Steelers searched for talent, Eric Ebron came in and became an integral player on the offense in 2020. Ebron was fourth in targets with 91, hauling in 56 receptions for 558 yards and 5 touchdowns on 70% of the snaps. Clearly, there is a role for Freiermuth, but his time in the sun won’t come until likely 2022 as Ebron is in the final year of his contract.
But once he does take the field, can Freiermuth find similar success? The first red flag is that Roethlisberger is likely done after this season. It was a surprise to see him come back for 2020 the way it is. Beyond him, the options aren’t great with Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins.
Then there is the pecking order of the Steelers receiving options. Assuming JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves in free agency, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are still on the roster. Together they combined for 253 targets (39% of the team’s targets), 150 receptions, 1,481 yards, and 16 touchdowns. It’s doubtful the Steelers will find a suitable QB who could come close to replicating these figures either in free agency or the 2022 NFL Draft.
Tight ends need time to develop, and Freiermuth has the skillset to be a TE1 for dynasty managers. However, just because he is the TE2 of the class doesn’t mean he should be taken as a player ready to impact as a rookie.
Freiermuth was one of the best tight ends in the nation while at Penn State
Freiermuth received nearly 20 scholarship offers as a four-star TE recruit after starring as a multi-position player from Brooks School in Massachusetts back in 2018. As a freshman, he appeared in 13 games (nine starts) and made his impact felt immediately. The former Nittany Lion converted his 26 receptions into 368 yards and a staggering 8 touchdowns. He ranked second among all FBS tight ends in scores and first in the Big Ten.
Freiermuth was the alpha on the Penn State offense as a sophomore as he amassed 43 receptions for 507 yards and 7 touchdowns. He once again earned All-Conference and All-American recognition while being named a team captain, something he refers to as his greatest accomplishment.
His growth and stardom were supposed to continue in 2020. However, the pandemic and offensive woes put a damper on those hopes. Named an AP first-time Preseason All-American, Freiermuth made four starts before missing the rest of the 2020 season due to a shoulder injury. Before leaving the field, he was third on the team in receptions (23), yards (310), and scored 1 touchdown. Along with his 77.5 yards per game average, he was named the Big Ten Tight End of the Year.
In just 29 career games, he broke Miami Dolphins and former alum Mike Gesicki’s career touchdown record in 16 fewer outings. Freiermuth is a bully on the field, which is a key reason I think he is one of the best values in upcoming dynasty drafts.
Where should you draft Freiermuth in dynasty rookie drafts?
Here is where things get interesting. There is only one tight end worthy of first-round draft capital in rookie drafts — Pitts. On the other hand, Freiermuth is going much later in drafts — typically closer to the late second round.
If I need a TE or am relying on an older starter, I would consider Freiermuth in the mid-second round. Potential TE1s are a precious commodity, and there is a sizable decline from Freiermuth to the next player.
Once you move into Superflex formats, all five quarterbacks would be first-round picks, pushing Freiermuth to the early third round. Now, in TE-premium scoring formats, Freiermuth sees a sizable boost in dynasty value. I have no issue taking him in the early second round.
I admit I am bullish on Freiermuth for fantasy, but he has done nothing to sway my opinion. Every time he is on the field, he has produced. Throw in his blocking ability, and he would never need to be subbed out in certain packages. Freiermuth’s dynasty value is likely going to rise post-draft as fantasy managers get over the shock of the landing spot and focus on the talent.
Want more fantasy football analysis and news?
Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay current with all things around the NFL and the upcoming 2021 fantasy football season. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis while also visiting our fantasy football section for more coverage and up-to-date rankings.