It can be difficult scouting and projecting tight ends into the NFL. Like linebackers, safeties, and running backs, there is an incredibly varied array of body types and skill sets preferred by different teams. It seems every offense favors a different style of tight end in their offense, with some looking at them as blockers first while others look for industrial sized receivers.
That being said, there are still some all around tight ends who can fit into almost any situation.
Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth is one of those tight ends, with the blend of size, athleticism, ball skills, and blocking upside to appeal to just about any offensive coordinator. But is that enough to make him the top tight end in the class?
Prospect: Pat Freiermuth
Games Watched: vs. Idaho (2019), vs. Minnesota (2019), vs. Michigan (2019), vs. Ohio State (2019), vs. Buffalo (2019)
Red Flags: Shoulder (2020)
Games Played: 29
Yards (YPC): 1185 (12.5)
Total Touchdown: 16
Games Played: 4
Yards (YPC): 310 (15.3 per catch)
Total Touchdown: 1
Best: Size, athleticism, route running, receiving, run after catch, pass blocking
Worst: Run blocking, consistency
Projection: A starting tight end in a modern NFL offense.
Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth has the size, athleticism, and versatility to play the position at the NFL level.
Freiermuth has an NFL-ready frame, with good height, length, and thickness, as well as the requisite athleticism to be a dependable and dangerous receiver. Freiermuth lined up in multiple positions in Penn State’s offense, aligning as an in-line and detached tight end, an H-Back in the back field, and as a slot receiver.
He is an athletic and varied route runner, asked to run everything from jet motion and crossing routes to stick routes, to vertical routes, and appears to have a full route tree which he executes well. Freiermuth wastes little motion getting into his route, running with good tempo and generally hitting his landmarks on time. He shows good ball skills down the field, locating, tracking, and adjusting to the ball in the air. Likewise, Freiermuth is a natural “hands” catcher who extends to attack the ball, framing it well, looking it into his hands, and never letting it into his chestplate.
He makes good use of his size and athleticism with the ball in his hands as well. Freiermuth is willing to play through contact and fight at the catch point, as well as fight through tackle attempts to pick up yards after the catch. He has a solid burst out of the catch and deceptive speed in the open field to make big plays in run-after-catch situations.
Freiermuth flashes upside as a blocker. His kick-slides in pass protection are almost like those of an offensive tackle, with a good base and hand placement, as well as the ability to mirror speed or absorb power. Likewise, Freiermuth flashes the ability to be a solid run blocker when playing with good leverage and hand placement.
That said, his blocking is inconsistent at this point. At times he can appear confused as to his assignment or hesitant to engage a defender. And while Freiermuth flashes upside when playing with leverage, he can be overpowered and easily discarded when he isn’t playing with leverage.
Freiermuth does carry a bit of an injury red flag, suffering a shoulder injury to end his collegiate career late in December. His medical reports and prognosis for the future could figure into teams’ decisions and his draft stock.
Teams will also want to continue to work with Freiermuth on his route running, improving his consistency and making his breaks more crisp.
Overall Grade: 8.5 - This prospect has the traits to be a productive starter immediately, and the upside to be a good player at his position early in his career.
Pat Freiermuth projects as a starting tight end with scheme versatility.
He is an athletic tight end with the size and skill set to be a contributor in a variety of NFL offenses. Freiermuth’s athleticism is practically begging to be put in an offense which treats the tight end position as an integral weapon. He has the size, speed, and ball skills to be a viable weapon down the field, and can be a real problem for Cover 3 or Cover 2 defenses. Likewise, his catch radius and physicality should make him a dangerous receiver in red zone or short-yardage situations. He should also be able to contribute closer to the line of scrimmage as well, with the ability to pick up yardage on tight end screens or slant routes.
Freiermuth’s blocking could be a source of frustration for coaches early on in his NFL career. He flashes the upside to be a good, reliable blocker in the NFL, but his flashes are just that. While he can look like a starting OT on one play, he can look like he’s never blocked before the next. That’s an issue that coaches will want to get ironed out soonest, as his lapses could have bad consequences in actual games against NFL defenders. The shoulder injury which ended Freiermuth’s final season could complicate matters some. Shoulder injuries can be nasty for blockers, and teams will want to keep close tabs on his recovery.