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Pat Freiermuth’s Strength, Athleticism Outweigh Durability Concerns

As a true freshman, Pat Freiermuth entered the Penn State depth chart as an underdog despite his prior four-star standing as a high school recruit. Currently, as the second-rated tight end prospect on most NFL Draft big boards following an illustrious career in Happy Valley, the bruiser is still regarded as an under-the-radar athlete.

In 2018, Freiermuth committed to play for the Nittany Lions as the No. 1 recruit in the state of Massachusetts. Despite standing as a dominant force throughout the northeast, the physical tight end wasn’t even the most highly sought-after player at his position in Penn State’s recruiting class, trailing tight end Zack Kuntz.

From there, the dark horse persona of the high motor tight end was born.

Entering his true freshman campaign, Freiermuth served as a backup to Jonathan Holland. Although Holland produced for Ricky Rahne’s attack serviceably, Tyler Bowen turned to the Merrimac, Massachusetts native for an instant spark to fill the void previously held by Mike Gesicki.

Once Freiermuth emerged into the clear-cut starter for the Nittany Lions, his production began to spike. In his first game as the go-to tight end, Freiermuth hauled in three receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown in a top-10 showdown against Ohio State.

After earning his stripes in pivotal action, the surefire pass-catcher continued to thrive. To end his freshman season, Freiermuth found a consistent knack for the end zone, tallying five touchdowns in Penn State’s final six contests.

In total, the mature freshman concluded his initial campaign with 26 receptions for 330 yards and eight touchdowns, immediately putting draft scouts on notice for the next premier tight end prospect out of Happy Valley.

Embarking on his sophomore season, Freiermuth set the stage for a record-breaking stretch. In matchups against Buffalo and Michigan State, “Baby Gronk” caught a combined 12 passes for five touchdown receptions and 159 yards. The tight end played with a rough edge, showing scouts his innate ability to be a blocker and a pass-catcher at the highest collegiate level.

Although the Nittany Lions were unable to crack the playoff race as a team, Freiermuth’s 2019 showing finished as an overwhelming success. Entering last year’s draft cycle, he ranked within the top five of all draft-eligible tight ends, per ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. In order to improve his ever-evolving craft, the already-cemented Penn State legend returned to James Franklin’s squad for another year.

The circumstances wavered entering his final season in a Penn State uniform, but his production remained rock solid to begin the eight-game regular-season slate. In his first appearance in a Kirk Ciarroccia-driven offensive, Freiermuth jumpstarted the campaign with a seven-reception, 60-yard output against Indiana while also compiling his lone touchdown of the year.

A week later, the reliable Nittany Lion compiled four receptions for 46 yards on Ohio State’s stout defensive but suffered a shoulder injury in the process that ultimately cut his workload to a four-game span before requiring surgery.

In limited action, Freiermuth’s 2020 effort resulted in all-conference recognition. Last December, the Big Ten tabbed the star junior as the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year after finishing the season first in receiving yards among all-conference tight ends in just four games of action.

Despite concluding his Penn State career with the most touchdown receptions by a tight end in program history (16) on 99 catches for 1,185 yards, the human highlight-reel still has his fair share of doubters at the next level.

According to Pro Football Focus, Freiermuth lacks the dynamic, one-on-one receiving mold scouts currently seek in at the tight end position, similar to Evan Engram, Darren Waller, and Florida’s Kyle Pitts. Furthermore, after relishing contact in 29 games as a Nittany Lion, next-level experts are wary of his wear and tear entering the league.

On a positive note, scouts believe Freiermuth does a superb job creating separation with crisp footwork and finishing plays through broken tackles. Over the past two seasons as a dependable staple in Penn State’s offense, Freiermuth gained yards after contact on nearly 20% of his receptions.

Recently, in Penn State’s Pro Day showing, the tight end performed smoothly in the presence of 31 NFL organizations. During the drills, Freiermuth hoped to alter the narrative surrounding his route-running ability.

“One of the big things is the misconception that I’m a one-speed route runner,” Freiermuth said. “I think that’s completely false. I think I showed that today, where if I can accelerate and decelerate…kind of just showing teams that I can do those double-moves and stuff like that. I think Pro Day helped me a lot.”

Due to his lingering injury, Freiermuth’s draft stock has him slated as a consensus round 2 selection. While the Nittany Lion legend surely possesses round 1 talent, teams may be skeptical of his recent injury and history of contact.

Whether he vaults into the mid-to-late first round or remains a solid day two selection, Freiermuth’s hardworking, underdog persona immediately gives him the ability to compete for a chance at terrorizing opposing red zone defenses on Sundays.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a sophomore from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania majoring in journalism. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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