The Jacksonville Jaguars had a chance to upgrade their tight end room in the 2021 NFL Draft. While Kyle Pitts, who was chosen by the Atlanta Falcons with the fourth overall pick, was not a realistic target, the Jags had several chances to take Pat Freiermuth but didn’t. Should they have second thoughts about their decision to pass on the Penn State product?
Pitts was the consensus top tight end prospect in the draft and Freiermuth was projected to be the second one taken and go late in the first round or early in the second. Ultimately, the Pittsburgh Steelers used the 55th overall pick to land the former Nittany Lion. Looking back, they should be pleased with the selection, as he’s become a difference-maker in Steel City.
Freiermuth had found the end zone twice this year before the Steelers face off against the Chicago Bears in Week 9. In that game, the rookie tight end doubled his touchdown output and scored two touchdowns, giving him four for the 2021 season. The Massachusetts native has developed a nice rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and is just getting started. Don’t be surprised if Freiermuth finishes the year with eight or ten touchdown receptions.
Even though the Steelers rookie is averaging 9.1 yards per catch, he’s logged more touchdown receptions than all the Jaguars’ tight end together in 2021, one by Chris Manhertz in the season opener and another by Jacob Hollister in Week 5. As good as Dan Arnold has been, he hasn’t reached the end zone since joining the team, and Jacksonville’s offense would surely benefit from Freiermuth’s presence.
The Jaguars had three chances to take Pat Freiermuth in the 2021 draft.
The Jaguars earmarked the first overall pick for Trevor Lawrence, and there was almost a zero percent chance they would choose someone else. That’s why pursuing Pitts, who was also seen as a top-5 selection, was out of the picture. On the other hand, Jacksonville had three chances to land Freiermuth, with picks No. 25, 33, and 45. They went on to choose running back Travis Etienne, cornerback Tyson Campbell, and offensive tackle Walker Little with those selections.
You could argue Freiermuth has been better than all those picks with the exception of Lawrence, who may be their quarterback of the future. After all, Etienne is out for the year with a Lisfranc injury. Campbell has struggled to adjust to the NFL and Little just made his first career start in the pros.
Then again, it’s too premature to say Freiermuth will have the better NFL career. The Jags couldn’t have projected E-T-N would get hurt. Campbell has steadily made progress and the coaching staff was pleased with Little’s performance against the Bills. Would they like to have the tight end on the roster? Sure, but not at the expense of one of their own draft choices. All three players could end up becoming key cogs for the Jaguars in the following years.
If Freiermuth keeps playing at a high level in Year 2 and the Jaguars’ early-round picks in 2021 fail to develop, you can make the case they should have drafted him. Until then, it may not be a good idea to overreact, even if Freirmuth has looked great in his rookie campaign.