Leading up to NFL training camps, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN has been releasing positional rankings of the top players at each position in the NFL. These rankings weren't comprised by Fowler alone. The ESPN insider had help from NFL coaches players, and executives.
Recently, Pittsburgh Steelers players like T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cameron Heyward have shown up inside the top 10 rankings at their respective position (Minkah even claimed the number one safety spot). Now it's Pat Freiermuth's turn for a moment in the spotlight.
On July 13th, Fowler released the tight end rankings for the upcoming season comprised of the panel of players, coaches, and executives. Freiermuth came in at 9th on the list.
Cracking the list is impressive, but Freiermuth's landing spot doesn't seem justified the more you look into it. He should be even higher. Obviously, Travis Kelce claims the top spot, followed by George Kittle and Mark Andrews. After that, it's really anybody's game.
While I can get behind Dallas Goedert and Kyle Pitts being projected as better players in 2023, I don't know how I feel about both T.J. Hockenson and Evan Engram being higher on the list. Freiermuth was rock solid when healthy last year as he graded out higher than Pitts, Hockenson, and Engram. Just below the Steelers tight end on the list was Dawson Knox, Dalton Schultz, David Njoku, and Noah Fant.
Why Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth should be furious
However, the ranking isn't the problem here; rather, it's what one unnamed veteran AFC scout had to say about Freiermuth, per ESPN.
""He's solid -- probably gets more love than he should because he plays for the Steelers and is local [Penn State] and has a Heath-ish aura about him," "- AFC Scout, via Jeremy Fowler
Essentially, this scout actually thinks that Pat Freiermuth is overrated because he plays for the Steelers and apparently has a Heath Miller-like feel to his game. That's some wild reasoning.
Look, I understand that Freiermuth doesn't have crazy athletic traits or outrageous size and length. But he's an excellent football player because of his natural, soft hands to pluck the ball out of the air, his silky-smooth movements and quality route-running, his ability to block on the move, and his ability to catch the ball in traffic.
The collection of these natural football traits helped the Pittsburgh Steelers tight end finish as the 7th overall ranked player at his position in 2022, per Pro Football Focus -- including the 6th-best receiving grade.
Pat Freiermuth may not be a superstar, but among many unspectacular NFL tights, the former second-round pick is already knocking on the door of being a top-5 player at his position. It's time to use these unsatisfying rankings and the disrespectful quote from the AFC scout as rage fuel for the upcoming 2023 season.