Lance Zierlein of NFL.com compared Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth to a former first-round draft pick of the Bengals. So if Cincinnati are looking for their next Tyler Eifert and don’t want to take Kyle Pitts, Freiermuth might be the guy.
Freiermuth is a junior coming out of Penn State. In 31 games for the Nittany Lions, he hauled in 92 receptions for 1,185 yards and 16 touchdowns. In 2020, he was named a First-Team All-Conference selection in the Big Ten.
Along with Eifert, Freiermuth has also drawn comparisons to Rob Gronkowski, earning the nickname “Baby Gronk.” Are these comparisons deserved, and if so, how will he fit with the Bengals?
School: Penn State
Position: Tight End
Weight: 251 pounds
Projected Round: Second or Third
Penn State used Freiermuth to do whatever they needed, and he usually did it.
He frequently lined up either behind or right in front of the formation. More often than not, he lined up with one hand on the ground, and could either block from that stance or run routes.
As a blocker, he is around average for a tight end. He can get the job done when he needs to, but can struggle against more refined pass rushers. If he can block while he is on the move, or he all he needs to do is chip, then he can add that extra protection for the quarterback. He is at his best during run blocking when he can run down hill and block linebackers. With his size, he will probably be bigger than anyone in the second level.
His size is also useful down the field as a receiver. He will be bigger and taller than any linebacker, safety, or cornerback that could cover him. Freiermuth is good at using his body to keep defenders away from the point of the catch.
One of his best routes is up the seam, where he looks like Gronkowski getting open. He’s also adept at boxing out defenders near the sideline.
While he is good enough at blocking, if he wants to become an elite tight end, he needs to improve in that area. As mentioned earlier, if he can get moving before engaging before the block, he usually finishes the job. However, his blocking right out of his stance is not a guarantee.
Furthermore, he is not the most elusive route runner. Here, the comparison to Eifert becomes a bit of a stretch, as the former Bengal was one of the best route running tight ends in the league. Freiermuth relies on his size or holes in zone coverage to create the throwing window, and rarely creates separation due to his route running.
Fit with the Bengals
If you had to pick one position for Freiermuth to fit into, it would be the “Y” position. That’s where Drew Sample is right now, so Freiermuth would have to compete directly with him for snaps.
He is athletic enough that he could play “F” now and again. At Penn State, he lined up in the slot quite a few times, so he could fit into that role if the Bengals need him to as well. C.J. Uzomah is already an established starter there.
For the short term, Freiermuth could compete with Mason Schreck, Mitchell Wilcox, and the newly claimed Thaddeus Moss for the third tight end spot. If the Bengals only carry three tight ends when the season starts, then Freiermuth could be the third who could spot start for either Uzomah or Sample.
The Bengals don’t have any depth for Uzomah, as Schreck and even Moss are better blockers than receivers.
Depending on the Bengals’ long term vision, they might flex him out to replace Uzomah in 2022. Uzomah is currently on the last year of his contract.
If Freiermuth is still around by the time the Bengals have addressed wide receiver and offensive line, then they might want to look at him. They certainly need the depth there.