The 2021 NFL Draft season is finally upon us. Football, for now, is over. All eyes will turn to the offseason as 32 franchises attempt to build their teams up to championship-caliber squads.
Among those teams will be the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hold 11 picks in this season’s draft -- including the No. 1 overall pick. The Jaguars are entering a new era under Head Coach Urban Meyer, and the 2021 draft will serve as a catalyst to the Jaguars’ rebuild moving into the future.
As we march closer and closer to April’s draft, we will look at individual draft prospects and how they would potentially fit with the Jaguars. Instead of looking at any negatives, we are going to look at what the players do well and if they could match what the Jaguars need at the specific role or position.
In this edition, we take a look at Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth, who has been one of the most popular players tied to the Jaguars this draft cycle. Does Friermuth make sense for the Jaguars at No. 33 or should they wait later to find their answer at the tight end position?
A four-star tight end prospect out of high school who committed to Penn State over Ohio State and Notre Dame, Pat Freiermuth is the latest in a long line of Penn State tight ends to hit the NFL. He has received lofty praise throughout his high school and college careers too, even earning the moniker of 'Baby Gronk' thanks to his No. 87 jersey and play style. He was also a two-time team captain for the Nittany Lions.
Freiermuth's true freshman season saw him put up big numbers as Penn State's top red zone threat. He recorded 26 receptions for 368 yards (14.2 yards per catch) and eight touchdowns, terrific figures for someone who was in high school a year prior. He started nine games and his eight scores were the most by a Penn State freshman since 2005.
In his sophomore season, Freiermuth saw his numbers take a jump in terms of volume as he was voted a team captain for the first time. He caught 43 passes for 507 yards (11.8 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns. His big-play ability may have taken a step back to a degree, but his production stayed stead as he took on an even bigger role in the passing game. He was seventh in the Big Ten and fourth among FBS tight ends with seven touchdown receptions.
Once again a captain in 2020, Freiermuth played just four games as a junior due to a shoulder injury. He saw a large volume of targets in those four games, catching 23 passes for 310 yards (13.5 average) and one touchdown. He ended his Penn State career with 92 catches for 1,185 yards (12.9 average) and 16 touchdowns, which set a Penn State record for career touchdown receptions by a tight end.
What Pat Freiermuth Does Well
Pat Freiermuth just looks and plays like a throwback tight end. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 258 pounds, Penn State asked Freiermuth to play in-line tight end with his hand in the dirt, detached from the formation, as an H-Back, and in the slot, so he wasn't lacking any responsibilities in their scheme due to his physical stature.
Freiermuth has a large frame that just looks like it contains a lot of strength and power. He matches this after the whistle as well, never appearing to be lacking physicality during a route or a block. He may lose a rep because of technique, but not because he was afraid to take the battle to his opponent. He embraces contact especially well as a receiving target, using his frame and power to get separation against linebackers in the middle of the field.
As a blocker, Freiermuth is likely near tops in the class. He won't receive the same questions in that area that Florida's Kyle Pitts or Miami's Brevin Jordan get, partially because he looks the part of a blocking tight end. He does a great job of anchoring at the point of attack and mirroring in pass protection, while he has the physicality and strength to move defenders from the line of scrimmage on down blocks.
Where Freiermuth looks best as a blocker is actually in space, too. He is a terror for linebackers when he approaches the second level because of his quickness to get to his spot and the power that he is able to generate on contact. As a blocker who Penn State frequently asked to rise to the second level, Freiermuth was dominant.
Freiermuth clearly brings a lot of value to the table as a receiver, too. He has strong hands and shows the proper technique when tracking the ball as a deep receiver. He does an excellent job of winning at the catch point and boxing defensive backs and linebackers out for the ball as well, showing off a good understanding of how to use his frame to win contested catches.
It is because of these traits that Freiermuth is a dominant red zone threat. He is able to high-point the ball and bring in passes in tight windows. Add in his strength and ability to break tackles and he is a legit threat once an offense gets closer to the end zone.
Freiermuth clearly isn't the athlete that Pitts is, but this doesn't mean he isn't athletic. He shows good initial explosion out of his stances and can threaten the seam, while also displaying surprising balance for his size. He is better after the catch than expected as well; he won't make many people miss, but he transitions from receiver to runner quickly and is able to eat up a lot of ground in a few steps. He also hardly goes down easily on first contact, often showing the drive and physicality to force defenses to gang tackle him.
How Pat Freiermuth Would Fit With the Jaguars
Considering the Jaguars' current tight end room has 14 career catches among four players, Jacksonville is in dire need of a tight end like Freiermuth who could feasibly contribute to every aspect of the offense.
Need a blocker on the line of scrimmage to pave the way for James Robinson? He can do that. Need someone to line up as an H-Back to add a wrinkle to the offense and provide some window dressing? Done. Need someone who can be a reliable target on third down or in the red-zone? He fits there too.
Freiermuth may not have the highest ceiling among this year's tight ends, but his floor is likely as high as anyone else's considering the fact that he is entering the league as a balanced player with few weaknesses. For a Jaguars team who needs an overhaul of the tight position, a complete player like Freiermuth is a great fit, even if he isn't an elite athlete.
Then there is the fact that Freiermuth's college position coach, Tyler Bowen, is currently Jacksonville's tight ends coach. And to say the two had a close relationship would be an understatement.
"Words can't describe what Pat Freiermuth means to me and my family. While he is a great football player, he will always be remembered by my family as an excellent human being," Bowen said last year. "You will always have a home here at Penn State and I want to thank you for letting me coach you hard each and every day."
It is hard to make an argument that the Jaguars should consider Freiermuth at No. 25 unless a run on offensive tackles and defensive backs forces their hand, but it makes sense why he is such a popular pick to them at No. 33. From his connection to Bowen to his fit with the Jaguars' massive need, it truly is a match made in heaven in draft terms.
Freiermuth is the second-best option available this offseason who is a "complete" tight end. For example, a tight end who can function just as well as a blocker than as a tight end. Kyle Pitts is the best tight end prospect, but Freiermuth fits a team like the Jaguars who needs a complete injection of talent in all areas of the position.
How the Jaguars attack the tight end position in free agency will determine if they should ultimately pull the trigger on selecting Freiermuth. If they don't add Hunter Henry, who can perform in the same balanced role, then there is a good argument to make that they should prioritize Freiermuth. It would make sense for the Jaguars to pursue a player like Gerald Everett and pair him with Friermuth due to how different their roles are.
For all of our 2021 NFL Draft profiles, click below.