Welcome back for the second part of the overlooked sophomores series where I explore some of the players that aren’t talked about as much as their more well-known counterparts and discuss what they have to offer next season.
With people like Ja’Marr Chase and Najee Harris finishing in the top 5 of all major formats and Javonte Williams finishing in the top 20 despite splitting carries with Melvin Gordon, there’s a lot to be excited about in 2021’s rookie class.
If you haven’t read the first part in this series, be sure to go and check it out here. Last time we covered a running back with big potential and this week we’ll shift gears to the tight end position.
As you’re probably aware, tight end is one of the harder positions in fantasy to get some real consistency. Today’s boom candidate was able to put up a relatively consistent season points wise and offers big upside in the part of the field where it really matters.
Pat Freiermuth, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers
Coming into the 2021 NFL season, most of the hype for a rookie tight end surrounded former Florida Gator Kyle Pitts, and why wouldn’t it? With the Atlanta Falcons’ 4th pick in the first round, Pitts became the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history.
However, after playing second-fiddle to Eric Ebron at the beginning of the season, Pat Freiermuth went and played a rookie campaign that fantasy managers should not ignore.
Finishing just outside of the top 10 in fantasy points for the three main formats, Freiermuth had 60 receptions for 497 yards and seven touchdowns. Those seven touchdowns put him in sixth overall for total tight end touchdowns this year.
Although his total yards are not particularly stellar, it’s important that we keep in mind he managed to put these numbers up despite playing under a quarterback who was ranked 25th in QBR (35.8) for the 2021 season.
What is stellar though is Freiermuth’s red zone performance throughout the season. He tied for the second-most red zone targets of any tight end in the league and capitalized on them too: 13 receptions for 92 yards and, course, the previously-mentioned seven touchdowns.
Although Pat Freiermuth had a good rookie showing, some might be worried about picking him up if Eric Ebron comes back healthy. However, I’d urge anyone with this thought to consider a few things first.
For starters, Ebron becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason and with his injury history and Freiermuth’s performance, it seems unlikely that he will be re-signed. Even when Ebron was healthy and playing, Freiermuth outscored him by a total of 24.5 PPR points in those same weeks.
The biggest unknown in Pat Freiermuth’s fantasy situation next year will be who throws the ball to him. As Big Ben retires, there are some big name quarterbacks on the free agent market or asking to be traded this offseason. Headlining that list are guys like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, either of whom would be an obvious upgrade from Roethlisberger.
Although, even if the Steelers decide to draft a new rookie QB, and Mason Rudolph steps up for the time being, that might not be the worst for Freiermuth’s outlook.
In the one game Mason Rudolph started this season, Freiermuth had nine targets, which is tied for the most targets he had all season in a single game. While one game surely doesn’t show a trend, it could be an early indication of how their chemistry might be.
In conclusion, even if you’re on the outside of picking up fellow rookie Kyle Pitts or one of the major tight end targets like Travis Kelce, Pat Freiermuth should be considered a solid tight end to have on your team. He has big upside when it comes to his red-zone performance which makes him particularly valuable in standard leagues.
Barring his role in the offense taking a major hit because of the quarterback situation in Pittsburgh, I’m confident Freiermuth will build on his rookie campaign and could very easily finish within the top 10 fantasy tight ends next season.