2021 NFL draft prospects: Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth

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Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Penn State TE Pat Freiermuth

6-foot-5, 258 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.83 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Not quite a next-gen tight end, lacking elite athletic traits, but Freiermuth has good blocking and receiving potential to be a very solid NFL tight end

Games watched: Michigan State (2020), Indiana (2020), Ohio State (2020), Nebraska (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 148 nationally), Freiermuth started nine of 19 games as a true freshman in 2018. That season he caught 26 passes for 368 yards and eight scores, earning honorable mention all-Big Ten and Freshman All-American honors. In 2019, Freiermuth caught 43 passes for 507 yards and seven scores and was named Penn State’s Most Valuable Offensive Player and second-team all-Big Ten. In 2020, Freiermuth caught 23 passes for 310 yards and one TD in four games, being named first-team All-Big Ten (coaches). He suffered a shoulder injury that ended his season early and declared early for the 2021 NFL draft.

Upside: Ideal NFL tight end frame. Long arms, good build and great length. Well-proportioned athlete with good lower-body power. Carries his nearly 260 pounds very well. Moves well for that size.

Focal point of Penn State offense that often was limited in the passing game. School-record for touchdowns by a tight ends with 16 in 30 career games — effective red-zone weapon who can be a mismatch piece on jump balls. Saw nearly 30 percent of passing targets when healthy in 2020.

Strong ball skills. High-points the ball well and displays nice body control in the air, on the sideline and over the middle. Can adjust to off-target throws readily — and can do so without gearing down too much.

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - OCTOBER 19:  Penn State Nittany Lions Tight End Pat Freiermuth (87) catches a pass for a touchdown during the first half of the game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 19, 2019, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, PA, (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth could be a second-round pick. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Quality route runner who creates separation. Gets into his routes with suddenness — pretty good foot quickness. Builds up to good speed vertically. Major threat down the seam. Prep basketball player who can post up safeties.

Good in-line blocking potential. Ingredients are all there to become a very reliable and effective run blocker. Showed some real finishing ability and strong effort on certain plays.

Excellent tackle breaker who powers his way through contact — you need to bring population to bring him down after the catch. Fearless over the middle — took some big shots and typically held onto the ball in traffic. Great stiff arm after the catch. Loves to bully would-be-tacklers.

Two-year team captain. Lined up wide, in-line and in the slot. Fairly well-rounded player. Well-liked by teammates for his energy, effort and competitiveness. Self-confident player.

Downside: Nice athlete but lacking elite traits. Runs well but lacks a true extra gear. Not really that sudden overall. Not the kind of explosive combine tester as former Nittany Lions TE Mike Gesicki was.

Most of his big receptions come after smaller tacklers bounce off him. One career reception longer than 28 yards — a 74-yarder on a defensive bust by Nebraska (and he was caught at the 1-yard line). Can’t stack vertically all that consistently.

Won’t separate vertically against DBs and not as effective shaking man coverage. Short-area separation is just OK. Quiet the past two years against Ohio State — covered often by a linebacker (Pete Werner) and held in check.

Blocking isn’t a finished product. Some technical errors, including lunging and getting out too far over his skis. Too aggressive at times. Doesn’t sustain enough and doesn’t block defenders off the screen. Will reach and succumb to countermoves as a pass blocker. More effective at this stage in run blocking.

Concentration drops were aplenty as a freshman — still can do a better job of catching balls more cleanly with his hands and looking the ball all the way in. Wasn’t as effective plucking low balls off the turf.

Can do a better job using his force getting off the line and battling before the grab. Didn’t make the first man miss as much last season.

Turns 23 years old as a rookie. Shoulder injury will require further medical scrutiny.

Best-suited destination: Freiermuth has all the earmarks of a starting “Y” tight end who can impact the game as both a receiver and blocker. He might not be a truly special player in any way, but he should be highly sought as a dependable third or fourth receiving option and a 60-snap performer who can take an offense up a notch.

Did you know: Freiermuth grew up in New England and has heard the “Baby Gronk” nickname once or twice before. He’s also trained with former Patriots safety Obi Melifonwu.

As a sophomore in high school, Freiermuth had to be moved from tight end to quarterback after the starter got hurt. He threw 13 interceptions in 11 games and said he didn’t like playing QB. Luckily, he moved back to tight end (and linebacker on defense) to finish out his prep career. As a senior, he caught seven TD passes, rushed for five scores and also tallied three defensive touchdowns.

Player comp: Tyler Eifert

Expected draft range: Second round, perhaps in the top 50 overall