It’s that time of year again when I get to indulge my college football fandom and encourage Carolina Panthers GM Scott Fitterer to draft a player coming from my alma mater, Brigham Young University. While like many of you I can get pretty irrational about my favorite college team, my track record in surfacing former BYU players for the Panthers to draft has been spot on.
In previous years I’ve advocated for running back Jamaal Williams (1,066 rush yards last year and an NFL-best 17 TDs), All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner, Cleveland Browns starting linebacker Sione Takitaki (71 tackles in 12 games last year, pre-injury), and the Panthers very own starting guard Brady Christensen.
I learned a hard lesson last year. I was going to profile BYU running back Tyler Allgeier but Carolina already had Christian McCaffrey and Chuba Hubbard. Since running back wasn’t a “position of need” for the Panthers I instead took a massive flier on late-round/UDFA prospect center James Empey. He went undrafted last year but made the Dolphins active roster as a UDFA. After the Atlanta Falcons drafted “my real BYU guy” Tyler Allgeier in the fifth round last year and he went on to rush for 1,035 yards on 4.9 yards per carry, I resolved that in the future I would just highlight BYU’s best player available.
In 2023 that player is offensive tackle Blake Freeland.
Blake Freeland’s freaky athleticism
But wait? Don’t the Panthers already have their tackles set with Ikem Ekwonu and Taylor Moton?
Yes, they do.
But there needs to be depth behind Ekwonu and an eventual successor for Moton. Now, I love Taylor Moton and he’s a solid player, but he’s also 29, never made a Pro Bowl, and has a cap hit of $29 million in both 2024 and 2025, per Spotrac. Drafting Blake Freeland as Ekwonu’s immediate backup and Moton’s eventual replacement is a long-term play, but I’m willing to go on record that I expect Blake Freeland to have a long and productive NFL career.
Why am I so high on Freeland? Simply put, he’s an athletic marvel and an elite blocker.
As a friendly warning - if you love offensive linemen with superior athleticism, you might want to go put on a bib. Blake Freeland is going to make you drool. At 6-foot-8 and 302 pounds, Freeland absolutely destroyed the NFL Combine. This PFF Tweet sums it up:
Blake Freeland's Combine Performance:— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 5, 2023
Vertical Jump: 37" (Highest Ever by OL)
Broad Jump: 10'0" (1st)
40 Yard Dash: 4.98s (2nd)
10 Yard Split: 1.68s (1st) pic.twitter.com/YwZnTKU8vw
In summary, Blake Freeland is on a different level athletically when compared to every other offensive lineman who participated in the 2023 NFL Combine. His performance was dazzling.
His Relative Athletic Score is an elite 9.83 for the RAS junkies out there. The superlative PFF used to describe him is “freakiest athlete” and they went on to note that he explodes out of his stance like a high-end tight end.
Interestingly, Blake never played offensive line before arriving at BYU. In high school he played quarterback, tight end, and defensive end, so he still has some developmental upside. In high school he also played basketball and spent most of his time trying to shatter backboards with a plethora of monster dunks (you’ve got to watch Freeland’s wonderful “Merry Dunkmas” highlight reel.)
But he’s not just an athlete. He’s also an elite offensive lineman.
Freeland’s college accolades
At BYU he was a four-year starter playing right tackle his first two seasons before moving to left tackle for two seasons, replacing Brady Christensen on the left side after he was drafted by the Panthers in 2021. Per PFF, Blake Freeland was the only offensive lineman with 90-plus pass blocking grades in each of the last two seasons. During his four years at BYU he only allowed 12 pressures on 888 pass-blocking snaps, per PFF.
While BYU is a football independent until officially joining the Big 12 this summer, the Cougars have played a good schedule over the last two years including seven games against the Pac-12 (in which BYU went 6-1), two games against Baylor, two against Boise State, and matchups with Notre Dame, Arkansas, and Virginia, among others.
This past season Blake Freeland was named to the The Associated Press All-America Third Team.
Freeland’s age and projected draft status
One question that often accompanies BYU prospects is their age. Many BYU players choose to serve voluntary two-year missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the university’s sponsor. Freeland did not serve a church mission, so he’s 22 years old coming into the draft.
Most mock drafts and Big Boards have him getting drafted somewhere between the third and fifth rounds.
CBS Sports ranks him No. 66 on their Big Board. ESPN has him at No. 72. NFL Mock Draft Dababase has him as the No. 89 overall prospect. PFF ranks him No. 98. On the other end of the spectrum, Freeland didn’t crack Walter Football’s Top 130 and he somehow fell to No. 233 on the Draft Network’s Big Board. At NFL.com they project Freeland as “good backup with the potential to develop into a starter.”
Carolina probably has more immediate needs to fill with their second round (No. 39) and third round (No. 93) picks than offensive line depth, but if Blake Freeland is available in the fourth round or later, they’d be wise to take him.
Scott Fitterer listened to me the last time I stumped for a former BYU offensive lineman, and we now have Brady Christensen as an entrenched starter.
I hope Mr. Fitterer trusts me once again with Blake Freeland.