It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen a tight end class as robust as the 2021 group, as players such as Kyle Pitts (Florida) and Brevin Jordan (Miami) should have bright futures playing football on Sundays. The best player at the position in the 2021 NFL Draft is Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth, who is being dubbed as “Baby Gronk” in the draft community. Freiermuth has the potential to be one of the NFL’s upper-echelon players at the position and is primed to be a highly sought-after 2021 draft prospect.
Pat Freiermuth NFL Draft Profile
Weight: 260 pounds
Position: Tight End
School: Penn State
Current Year: Junior
On October 25, 1998, Pat Freiermuth was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to Dianne and John Freiermuth. He has two siblings, his sister Megan and his brother Tim, who played college football at Springfield College.
Pat Freiermuth played his high school football at Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts, where he was a five-year letterman. As a senior, he was voted to be the team captain and ultimately won the team’s MVP award. His decorated high school career was highlighted by many accolades, such as being voted to a first-team spot on USA Today’s All-USA Massachusetts Football team.
All three major recruiting outlets — 247Sports, ESPN, and Rivals — recognized Freiermuth as a four-star recruit. 247Sports tabbed Freiermuth as the second-ranked player in Massachusetts, the 13th-ranked tight end in the nation, and the 323rd overall prospect in the country. With other schools such as Ohio State and Notre Dame drawing consideration, Freiermuth ultimately chose Penn State.
Freiermuth has overwhelmingly outplayed his recruiting status and has developed into one of the most complete tight end prospects we’ve seen in many years. He has positioned himself to be a surefire first-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, and with a strong junior campaign, his draft has the potential to soar.
Freiermuth is extremely toolsy and will thrive at the next level
The NFL will still be very high on Freiermuth, as he possesses traits that will excite front offices. His tool chest contains strong reliable hands, talent as an in-line blocker, a developed route tree, the ability to score touchdowns in the red-zone, strong leadership abilities, and the capacity to finish plays by running defenders over. In all likelihood, Kyle Pitts will be the first tight end selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, as he possesses more speed than Pat Freiermuth and is putting up staggering numbers in 2020. With that said, it wouldn’t surprise me if Freiermuth turned out to be the better pro.
Regardless, Freiermuth is one of the most complete tight end prospects to enter the NFL ranks in quite some time and should be a bonafide first-round selection. The NFL is starved for talent at the tight end; outside of players such as Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller, and Mark Andrews, the position is quite pedestrian. Both Freiermuth and Pitts will have the opportunity to change that.
Freiermuth’s record-setting Penn State career is over; his NFL career is just beginning
There hasn’t been a bigger disappointment during the 2020 college football season than James Franklin’s Penn State Nittany Lions. After suffering a humiliating 41-21 loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes over the weekend, Penn State now finds themselves sitting with a record of 0-5, in the cellar of the Big Ten Conference. The Nittany Lions entered the 2020 season with much promise, but things went south in a hurry. Micah Parsons, the team’s best player, opted out of the 2020 season while running back Journey Brown had to hang up his cleats due to a medical condition found during COVID testing.
More bad news surfaced for Penn State over the weekend, as star tight end Pat Freiermuth will undergo season-ending surgery this week. The surgery is to repair a shoulder injury he suffered earlier in the season but has been toughing out over the last few weeks. Bottom line, Freiermuth’s career at Penn State is over, and he will now turn his focus to preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Freiermuth entered the 2020 season as one of the top tight end prospects in college football. Despite having his production hampered drastically by abysmal quarterback play, he remains in the TE1 conversation, currently battling Florida’s Kyle Pitts. Freiermuth, also dubbed as “Baby Gronk”, finishes his junior season with 23 receptions for 310 yards and a touchdown, averaging an impressive 13.5 yards per reception. The stats are not overly impressive, especially when compared to Pitts, who has eight touchdowns on the season, but Freiermuth didn’t have the luxury of catching passes from a Heisman candidate.
Freiermuth pondered entering the 2020 NFL Draft, but ultimately chose to return to Penn State, and although the 2020 season didn’t go as originally planned, he won’t be leaving empty-handed. Freiermuth was able to set a new Penn State record, breaking Mike Gesicki’s mark for most touchdown receptions by a Nittany Lions tight end.
Quarterback change ignites Pat Freiermuth and Penn State offense
The 2020 college football season couldn’t have started any worse for James Franklin and the Penn State Nittany Lions, as they currently sit at 0-4 after four consecutive losses. Entering the season, Penn State was the eighth-ranked team in the nation, but a litany of misfortunes have them in the cellar of the Big Ten conference. The latest blemish on the Nittany Lions’ schedule came this weekend, as the Nebraska Cornhuskers gave the Nittany Lions a crushing 30-23 loss.
One of the main reasons for the program’s disastrous start has been the poor play of quarterback Sean Clifford. After another slow start in this week’s matchup against Nebraska, Clifford was benched in favor of redshirt sophomore Will Levis. Levis immediately sparked the Penn State offense, and one player who should be ecstatic about the change is tight end Pat Freiermuth. Freiermuth’s production (and 2021 NFL Draft stock) has been severely hampered by Clifford all season long, and this change should alleviate this issue. We saw this on Saturday, in fact.
With Clifford at the helm, Freiermuth hauled in a mere three receptions for 21 yards. But when Levis came in, Freiermuth exploded for an additional four catches for 92 yards receiving. In total, Freiermuth caught seven passes for 113 yards, averaging an impressive 16.1 yards per reception, including a jaw-dropping 74-yard reception where he slid behind the Nebraska secondary for a huge play. It was a record-setting day for Freiermuth, as his 29 straight games with a catch is a Penn State positional record.
Freiermuth was able to showcase superior route-running and the ability to consistently get open. After the catch, he played with an attitude, running defenders over and moving the chains for the Penn State offense. His reliable hands were fully on display as well, as he flashed the ability to make tough contested catches throughout the game. The Penn State offense also exploded for 245 rushing yards, and Freiermuth’s exceptional blocking was key to their success on the ground.
Rumors have swirled that Pat Freiermuth could potentially opt out of the team’s remaining games due to Penn State’s slow start. Freiermuth himself put those rumors to rest, stating, “I’m committed to Penn State until I decide my time is up here. Like I said before, I love this university, I love this program, I love the coaches, I love the players in it. I’m with them in the good times and the bad times. It’s not my personality to just walk away when we’re down and the program is down.”
Sometimes change is good, and for Freiermuth, truer words couldn’t be spoken. He should benefit greatly from a change at quarterback, and if he continues to build chemistry with Will Levis, Pat Freiermuth should be able to cement himself as the best tight end available in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Up next for Penn State is a home game against the Iowa Hawkeyes. Can Freiermuth and Penn State find their rhythm and get their first win?
Poor quarterback play continues to hurt Pat Freiermuth and his 2021 NFL Draft stock
The start of the 2020 college football season could not have transpired any worse for head coach James Franklin and the Penn State Nittany Lions. The program’s best defensive player, linebacker Micah Parsons, opted out of the season and the team entered this weekend’s showdown with the Maryland Terrapins with a record of 0-2 after suffering consecutive losses to the Indiana Hoosiers and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The remedy for fixing this poor start would be hosting the Terrapins at Beaver Stadium, right? Wrong. Maryland walloped Penn State by the score of 35-19, despite being 25-point underdogs.
One of the lone bright spots in Penn State’s debacle against the Terrapins was tight end Pat Freiermuth. Freiermuth, also known as “Baby Gronk,” dominated the Maryland defense primarily from the slot, hauling in six receptions for 91 yards. That makes 28 consecutive games with a catch for Freiermuth, which is the eighth-longest streak for all college football pass-catchers nationally.
Freiermuth continues to flash big-play potential, as his 15.2 yards per reception against the Maryland defense would indicate. He demonstrated upper-echelon route running ability and displayed the reliable hands we have grown accustomed to seeing with Freiermuth. He was a matchup nightmare for the Maryland defense, as he was creating separation with ease and consistently moving the chains for the Penn State offense. Also, with 9:04 remaining in the third quarter, Freiermuth drew a pass interference call to extend Penn State’s possession.
The fact of the matter is that Freiermuth’s production should be substantially higher, but he is being hurt by the poor play of quarterback Sean Clifford. On many instances in this weekend’s clash with the Terrapins, Clifford overthrew a wide-open Freiermuth. Horrific quarterback play is hurting Freiermuth’s ability to showcase his elite ability, and if the Nittany Lions continue losing, he may very well opt out of the team’s remaining games in order to focus on the 2021 NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, Freiermuth’s biggest competition for the crown of “TE1” in the 2021 NFL Draft, Kyle Pitts, is playing with one of the hottest quarterbacks in college football in Kyle Trask, and continues to showcase big-play potential. Against the fifth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs, Pitts hauled in a mere two passes, as he left the game in the second quarter after suffering a big hit from a Georgia defender, which drew a targeting penalty.
Pitts made the most of those two catches, as he took one to the house for a 25-yard touchdown. Whether it’s fair or not, many in the draft community are starting to lean towards Pitts as the best tight end prospect in the 2021 draft, and Penn State’s erratic quarterback play is a big reason why.
Penn State travels to play a very bad Nebraska team this weekend. Pat Freiermuth should be able to put up some big numbers against a very suspect Cornhuskers defense. Can Sean Clifford break his slump and give the star tight end opportunities to make big plays?