If you’re a tight end growing up in the 2000s, there aren’t many better examples to follow on the field than Rob Gronkowski.
Apparently, Penn State Nittany Lions star Pat Freiermuth knows that as he modeled his game after the former New England Patriots star and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer so much, he wears his No. 87. Freiermuth has garnered the nickname “Baby Gronk,” and is earning comparisons to his role model.
Freiermuth is also potentially on the Patriots’ draft radar as the team continues to try to find a playmaker from the tight end position. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote the following on Freiermuth’s potential match with the Patriots.
Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth, who projects as an early-round pick, is a Massachusetts native (Merrimac) who wore No. 87 in college. That’s why some referred to him as “Gronk.” With the Patriots still looking to fill the void of Rob Gronkowski’s departure two years later, it would be a fun story if they turn to a prospect who admired Gronkowski as a youngster growing up about 70 miles from Gillette Stadium.
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While Florida’s sensational tight end prospect Kyle Pitts is known for his hands, route-running, and speed, Freiermuth delivers a bit more of a physical presence to the position. He seems to enjoy running would-be tacklers over, and let’s just say the first defender rarely brings him down.
In 2020, Freiermuth had 26 receptions for 368 yards and 8 TDs. That followed his best season at Penn State in 2019 when he hauled in 43 passes for 507 yards and 7 TDs.
While his stats aren’t gaudy, Freiermuth has the look of a player who could excel in the Patriots’ system. If nothing else, he could push Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in 2021.
The Patriots’ Tight End Situation
New England selected both Asiasi and Keene in the third round. Their intentions were to remake the tight end position with a pair of talented and athletic guys.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work out well for Asiasi and Keene in their rookie seasons. The pair combined for 5 receptions, 55 yards, and one TD. That lone score came in the season finale against the New York Jets when Asiasi caught a scoring toss from Cam Newton.
Obviously, there is time and room for improvement with both players. However, that probably won’t prevent the Patriots from addressing the position again via the draft and free agency. Even if Asiasi and Keene both show improvement in their second seasons, the Patriots still need depth as they depended far too much on marginal veteran Ryan Izzo in 2020.
A youth movement featuring Asiasi, Keene, and Freiermuth doesn’t sound too bad.
When Might Freiermuth Come off the Board
According to Walter Football, Freiermuth is listed as the No. 3 tight end in this year’s class. He’s behind Pitts and Miami’s Brevin Jordan. WF has Freiermuth projected to be selected between the second and fourth rounds.
Quite honestly, it would be a surprise to see the Patriots take him before the third round, and more than likely the fourth. While there is no questioning the team’s need for tight end production, and it appears Freiermuth might even be more pro-ready at this stage of his career than Asiasi and Keene were in 2020, New England has a number of holes to fill.
Tight end is one of them, but not likely ranking ahead of needs at quarterback, wide receiver, and linebacker. I’d expect to see those positions addressed before the Patriots drafted their third tight end in two years.
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