From the second the 2020 draft came to a close, speculation had already started up for the 2021 class.
So, in that spirit, here we are with an article series highlighting prospects who look to be this upcoming draft’s biggest stars.
And the season hasn’t even started yet.
Admittedly, “way too early” draft predictions are exactly what they’re titled: Way too early— and as a result, are very rarely, or perhaps never, accurate at all.
In this draft primer series, we won’t be mocking players to any teams, but rather looking at the top players at each position who could get drafted by the Steelers with their first few picks in 2021. Prospects such as Trevor Lawrence, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Fields, and Penei Sewell, who are all expected to be gone long before the Steelers are projected to pick in the first round, will not be included.
The goal? Not to make any “hot take” predictions, but rather to look at some players who Steelers fans might want to watch a little closer than usual this college season.
Fourth in this series will be a position that takes a while to adapt at the NFL level, but has been a pivotal part of many successful teams: tight ends. They are ranked in no particular order.
Pat Freiermuth, TE #87, Penn State
2019 stats: 43 receptions, 507 receiving yards, 7 receiving touchdowns.
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 256 lbs.
Any tight end with the nickname “Baby Gronk” deserves the top spot on this list of prospects.
Freiermuth offers everything you could want in an NFL tight end, with strong hands, great size, blocking ability, athleticism, and more. Not being just a pure blocker or pass-catcher makes Freirmuth a diverse weapon who could fit in any offense.
Freiermuth still has some room to bulk up in his 6’5” frame, but his size and strength are far from being any type of concern. In fact, he’s an excellent red zone threat and one of the best blocking tight ends in this year’s class.
If Freiermuth can continue to bump up his production this season, there’s a good chance he’ll be the top tight end off the board in 2021.
Some notable articles about Pat Freiermuth:
Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth a top option for 2021 - Pro Football Network
Pat Freiermuth Draft Profile - The Draft Network
Pat Freiermuth could cash in on weak TE class - NFL Mocks
Brevin Jordan, TE #9, Miami
2019 stats: 35 receptions, 495 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns.
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 245 lbs.
Brevin Jordan was underused in Miami’s offense last year, but still managed to shine as one of the top tight ends in the nation in 2019.
Jordan is extremely athletic, and is a huge threat going down the seam thanks to his speed and hands. He’s a excellent “move” tight end who is a mismatch versus defensive backs and linebackers, but he’s also a solid blocker.
Jordan is great in contested catch situations, and more touchdowns this year should solidify him as a red zone threat. A late season injury hurt his stock at winning the Mackey Award last year as the nation’s top tight end, and definitely affected his production as well.
Jordan is the complete package as a modern-day tight end, but there’s always room to improve, especially when it comes to his production and blocking.
Miami has a proud tradition of pumping out NFL tight ends, and Jordan should be no different. An expanded role in his team’s offense in 2020 will continue to up his draft stock, which looks to be within the first round already.
Some notable articles about Brevin Jordan:
2021 NFL Draft: The unlimited potential of Miami tight end Brevin Jordan - Pro Football Network
Brevin Jordan Will Be Key Part In Rhett Lashlee’s Offense - State of the U
Kyle Pitts, TE #84, Florida
2019 stats: 54 receptions, 649 receiving yards, 5 receiving touchdowns.
Height/Weight: 6’6”, 239 lbs.
Pitts is a wide receiver trapped in a tight end’s body.
He’s a massive, 6’6” target with speed and athleticism— the ultimate matchup nightmare. Paired with quarterback Kyle Trask, a top-10 quarterback in this year’s draft class, Pitts was very productive last year and looks to improve upon those numbers in 2020.
Pitts is a decent blocker already, although he’ll definitely need to improve in that area to succeed at the NFL level. He apparently bulked up to 246 lbs this offseason, which should help him that area a lot. He looks to be used more in the slot than as an in-line tight end, but six-and-a-half feet and 245-plus pounds might be too much blocking potential to pass up.
As Florida’s top returning offensive weapon, Pitts should break out in an even bigger way in 2020, putting himself in the first round conversation if he wasn't already. His connection with Kyle Trask is special, and should only improve this season.
Some notable articles about Kyle Pitts:
Gators TE Kyle Pitts bigger and stronger in 2020 - Gators Territory
Kyle Pitts is a problem for defenses - Alligator.Org
Jalen Wydermyer, TE #85, Texas A&M
2019 stats: 32 receptions, 447 receiving yards, 6 receiving touchdowns.
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 250 lbs.
Wydermyer broke onto the scene as a freshman last year. As a draft-eligible candidate, his sophomore season may be more pivotal than most.
The speed and size of Wydermyer allowed him to quickly adapt into Texas A&M’s college offense. After a slow start, injuries to those ahead of him thrust Wydermyer into a starting role and he didn't look back. With solid hands and his aforementioned size, Wydermyer produced six touchdowns last year and looks to up that number next year. He’s a big-play waiting to happen, as well.
Wydermyer is slowly becoming a better blocker. The college game has been producing less and less true blockers at the tight end position, as spread offenses prefer the oversized receiver-type tight ends than true in-line blockers. If Wydermyer can improve in this area, his draft stock should continue to rise.
There’s every reason to expect Wydermyer to continue to improve this year, especially with his talented quarterback, Kellen Mond, returning to school with him. He’s a sleeper first-rounder who can solidify his stock with another good season.
Some notable articles about Jalen Wydermyer:
Jalen Wydermyer: The X-Factor in Disguise - AllAggies
Some other names to look out for this season include BYU’s Matt Bushman, Louisville’s Kemari Averett, Ohio State’s Luke Farrell, Kansas State’s Nick Lenners, Wisconsin’s Jake Ferguson, and Alabama’s Major Tennison.
Which tight end would you most like to see as a Pittsburgh Steeler next year?
This poll is closed
Should the Steelers draft a tight end in 2021?
It’s definitely a better class at that position than it was last year where only two tight ends were taken in the top 100 players. In fact, all four players mentioned in this article have a chance at being first round picks.
The Steelers’ current two starters at the position, Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald, are both injury-prone, dynamic-when-healthy veterans, neither of whom have a guaranteed future with the team.
If the Steelers want to go younger and cheaper at the position next year, tight end could very well be one of their first few picks. A reliable, security-blanket tight end would be a valuable asset to Ben Roethlisberger as he nears the end of his career, as well as a huge help to whichever young signal-caller is tasked with replacing the future Hall-of-Famer.
As always, it’s impossible to make a reasonable draft projection with an entire season to be played between now and the 2021 NFL Draft. However, tight end is certainly a possibility and would add another dynamic option to a talented Steelers offense.