Have you ever heard anyone say that Pat Freiermuth is bad at football? That he’s not a good tight end? Me neither. And typically, leading into the NFL season, he’s been ranked decently high in fantasy football rankings and has been a fairly coveted dynasty trade target. Yet he has failed to live up to those expectations year after year. 

And now, despite still being only 25 years old, he’s fallen out of favor with many fantasy gamers. He currently goes off the board in early best ball drafts on sites like Underdog at TE16 – the lowest we’ve seen him go in years. And guess what? Despite having him in our Tight End Fades article last year, we are actually IN on Pat Freiermuth this year. 

If you are smart and you’re following our lead with the tiered rankings on our 2024 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet, you’ll probably end up with at least a couple shares of Freiermuth as well. And today we’re going to take a moment to examine some of the arguments against Pat Freiermuth and break down why that shouldn’t stop you from drafting him in any of your fantasy football drafts this season. It’s a battle of The Muth vs. The Myths.



Arthur Smith

It’s honestly become a meme at this point. “Tee hee – Arthur Smith”. That’s the top answer I get to explain why folks aren’t drafting Pat Freiermuth. And, as is often the case with social media, there’s never a real well thought out follow-up that comes along with it. So, let’s dive into Mr. Arthur Smith and figure out if he’s going to be a problem. 

The first implication seems to be that Smith doesn’t call a lot of pass plays. Which is true to some degree as he does like to run the football. But last year, the Falcons threw 31.2 attempts per game which was more than the Steelers at 30.3, and it wasn’t far off from teams like Philadephia (33.2), Green Bay (33.5), and Miami (33.6). 

I mean, the league leader was throwing 37.5 times a game. Not to mention, the Baltimore Ravens (29.1 attempts per game) and San Francisco 49ers (30.0) were throwing less than that as well and both have been able to support high-end tight ends. The Ravens in particular have routinely been among the bottom of the league in pass attempts.

The other half of this Arthur Smith issue is this idea that Smith won’t be good for the tight end – despite the Falcons throwing the second most passes to tight ends last year of any team. I guess the idea is that he will somehow throw the ball to a backup tight end like Connor Heyward or Darnell Washington because he liked to throw the ball to Jonnu Smith in Atlanta? 

They seem to be forgetting that, even if Jonnu Smith got a decent number of looks, Kyle Pitts still got 90 targets. Even coming off knee surgery that was clearly still hampering him. That was top ten for a tight end and the same number of targets that George Kittle got. Those 90 targets were second on the team behind only Drake London’s 110. Which brings me to my next point…




Target Competition

As we’ve discussed in-depth in our research article What Makes An Elite Tight End, being a top two target on the team is one of the most important barriers to entry for difference-making upside for a tight end. The VAST majority of elite fantasy football tight ends have either led their team in targets or have at least been second. 

The ADP for Freiermuth indicates that he does not have top five upside or even top ten upside in his range of outcomes. But the discussion regarding target competition doesn’t really match up. Over the last four years, Diontae Johnson has AVERAGED around nine targets a game. Averaged. That is a lot of balls thrown his way. And now, he’s been traded to Carolina. 

George Pickens already got over 100 targets himself last year. There is room for him to absorb some additional targets, of course, but not all ~150 or so that Johnson would routinely get in a season. And what is the other target competition for Muth? We don’t mind taking a stab on Roman Wilson in best ball drafts, but we are also talking about a rookie that caught 48 passes in his BEST season of college. 

Guys like Van Jefferson and Calvin Austin are not all of a sudden going to become target monsters. Obviously, the backs will catch some balls, but Kyle Pitts just had 90 targets on a team with Bijan Robinson. The path itself toward being a top two target on the team, or even leading the team in targets, is fairly clear. The next argument folks like to make is regarding the guy delivering the football for the Steelers in 2024: Russell Wilson.




Russell Wilson

I’ve already had this argument about every way you can have it. And it essentially comes in two flavors.

Russell Wilson Stinks

I get it – Broncos fans especially were not happy with Russell Wilson. But let’s separate ourselves from the contract, the character, and the “break up” for a second here. Russell Wilson didn’t get benched or even released for a better quarterback. He was “benched” because he wasn’t a good scheme fit and they knew he wasn’t the QB of the future for Sean Payton’s offense. 

If he got hurt during those last two games, he could not be released. That whole situation was transactional as a big ego coach in Sean Payton wanted to move on from the big ego Russell Wilson and his contract. Let’s put that aside and look at the actual stats for a moment though. After all, in fantasy football, it is the stats that matter.

You would think the Broncos won only two games last year, but Russ was 7-8 as a starter. His passer rating of 98.0 was not far off from his career rating of 100.0. In 15 games, he threw 26 touchdown passes and only 8 interceptions – that TD/INT ratio of 3.25 was good for fifth among NFL QBs. Sure, he didn’t throw for a ton of yards, but that is the Sean Payton/Joe Lombardi offense. 

Those two are the kings of the running back dump downs and they have been for years. The Broncos were the number one team in passes to the RB, which explains a lot of the strange stats analysts have been posting about Wilson’s efficiency and passes behind the line of scrimmage. But Joe Lombardi is a merchant of RB passes and has been for a decade straight.

Again, Russ isn’t a good fit for THAT scheme. But was it truly as bad as the media would have you think? For the contract he was on? Yes. In terms of general NFL QB play? No. In terms of fantasy football, Russ was the QB14 despite missing two games. Virtually every year of Russell Wilsons’ career has been better than the BEST passing season for Kenny Pickett or Desmond Ridder

There is really no argument that Russell Wilson isn’t the best passer that Arthur Smith or Mike Tomlin have had since Big Ben or Matty Ice. When that point comes up, the Muth detractors always pivot to the same argument.

Russell Wilson Doesn’t Throw To The Tight End

Or Russell Wilson doesn’t throw over the middle. I’ve heard both. And neither is true. I’m actually not sure where this myth came from that Russell Wilson doesn’t throw over the middle, but I’ve seen it all over. Here is the passing direction and depth chart from 2023, courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

Looks like this guy threw over the middle plenty, yeah? In fact, in virtually every year of his career, he’s had more passing yards throwing between the numbers than he has outside the numbers. This is despite his best players typically being outside wide receivers, like Courtland Sutton, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett. Which brings me to the point on tight ends.

I think some folks might be a little confused about how NFL offenses work. For the most part, it’s not like backyard football where you say, “HIKE” then everyone runs around all willy-nilly before you just throw it to your best friend. It can devolve into that at times. But, for the most part, these plays are drawn up with specific timing windows and specific read progressions in mind. 

I actually spent a good amount of time defending a Russell Wilson OT incompletion with the concept of read progressions. We could talk about play design and progressions for ages but the short and sweet is that the plays are typically drawn up with the best pass catchers in mind. Which has rarely been a tight end for Wilson.

Did fans really expect Sean Payton and Joe Lombardi to make Adam Trautman a focal point of the offense? Or Lucas Krull (who led Broncos TEs in routes run over the later portion of the season)? If you have DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who are you drawing the plays up for: those guys, or Will Dissly/Noah Fant?

The best tight end Russ has had was a washed Jimmy Graham coming off a torn patellar tendon, and Russ was able to get him 90 targets in one year and then ten touchdowns in the next. It’s not that Russell Wilson “doesn’t like throwing to the tight end”. That’s a silly thing to say. If the tight end is one of the best pass catchers on the team, the plays will be drawn up for him. And Russ will throw him the ball. It’s much simpler than we are making it out to be.




The Muth > The Myths

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has quite literally NEVER had a losing season. He just dragged a Kenny Pickett-led team to the playoffs last year. The over/under for wins for this team right now with Vegas is set at 8.5. There is a real possibility that this Steelers team this year with Russell Wilson at quarterback is pretty good.

Keep in mind – they don’t have to be incredible to have viable fantasy football assets on the team. They honestly don’t even need to be “pretty good”. But they could be. Between Ryan Tannehill and Matt Ryan, Arthur Smith has had quarterbacks finish top 12 in attempts, yards, and fantasy. He’s capable of putting together an NFL offense. And his NFL offense last year, even with brutal quarterback play, fed 90 targets to Kyle Pitts (and 174 total combined to the tight end group). 

With Diontae Johnson gone, Pat Freiermuth could easily be a top two target on the team. That opens the door for elite fantasy football upside. Especially if Russell Wilson gives him the Jimmy Graham treatment. With Freiermuth coming off the board as the 16th tight end on average in early best ball drafts, he’s pretty easy to acquire. 

You’ll have to pick up a copy of our 2024 Best Ball Cheat Sheet if you want to know the EXACT best spot to pull the trigger on Freiermuth in drafts. But the important thing for now is that you stop believing in the myths. And you start believing in The Muth.