Football

NFL draft: BYU’s Blake Freeland may be first Cougar taken in 2023 draft

Blake Freeland’s life will change this week, of that he is fairly certain.

What the 6-foot-8, 305-pound BYU offensive lineman doesn’t know is where he will go in the NFL draft, or which team will acquire his services.

“Shoot, I am excited, man. It is something I have been dreaming of since I was a little kid. It is finally here. I just know that wherever I end up, it is going to be the best place for me.” — BYU offensive lineman Blake Freeland

“People probably get tired of hearing it, but I truly have no idea,” Freeland said.

The former Herriman High three-sport star does have a pretty good idea what he will do with his first NFL paycheck, however.

“I’ve been debating about getting a new car,” he said.

The towering left tackle has been driving a 2003 Toyota Sequoia with 320,000 miles on it.

“It’s breaking down a little bit lately,” Freeland said. “It is on its last legs.”

He would also like to take his entire family on a trip outside of the country, “to kinda show them what a real vacation is,” he said.

Freeland, a four-year starter at BYU — the first two years at right tackle, the second two years at left tackle after All-American Brady Christensen was taken in the third round, 70th overall, of the 2021 NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers.

Big Blake, as his teammates call him, is living the dream that first took root when he started showing phenomenal athleticism for a person his size as a youngster.

“Shoot, I am excited, man,” he told the Deseret News on Monday. “It is something I have been dreaming of since I was a little kid. It is finally here. I just know that wherever I end up, it is going to be the best place for me.”

Most mock drafts have Freeland going between the late second round and the fourth round. He said he’s mentally preparing for almost anything and knows he will have to prove himself all over again just as he did in 2019 after signing with BYU as an “athlete” because, despite his size, he had played quarterback and tight end his first two seasons at Herriman High in the southwest part of the Salt Lake Valley.

He was also an all-state center in basketball and a state champion in the shot put, javelin and discus in track.

“It is kind of like a restart,” he said. “You are at the bottom of the totem pole again and you just gotta prove to other people and yourself that you can get out there and compete and put your best foot forward every day.”

For his part, Christensen isn’t surprised that Freeland is about to supplant him as the newest BYU offensive lineman in the NFL.

“I just remember him playing in practice, he would just like pull and run around the corner and he would just be destroying people,” Christensen told BYUtv. “Sometimes he would look like he was tackling people. He was so raw, but so athletic and so big and so good.

“You were like, holy cow, once this guy fine-tunes his technique, he is going to be incredible,” Christensen continued. “And that’s what he has done these past couple of years. He has really fine-tuned his technique to go along with his athleticism. It has been fun to watch his progress.”

BYU offensive lineman Blake Freeland, second from right, reacts after performing a vertical jump at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Sunday, March 5, 2023. Freeland posted a 37-inch jump, the best mark for an offensive lineman at the combine since at least 2003.

Erin Hooley, Associated Press

After he was named an Associated Press Third-Team All-American last fall and decided to turn pro despite having another year of eligibility remaining, Freeland had his coming-out party, of sorts, at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. He posted a 37-inch vertical jump, the best mark for an offensive lineman at the combine since at least 2003.

He added to that eye-popping leap with a 10-foot broad jump, best among OLs, and a time of 4.98 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which was third-best. Some NFL draft experts have said he moved up one or two rounds in the draft with his performance in Indy.

“I think people were impressed. I think people kinda knew that I was an athletic player. I think putting up good numbers kinda showed them and kinda got my name out there, which was nice,” he said. “But I think at the end of the day they come back to the tape, the game film, and that’s what they rely on the most.”

If that’s the case, he should be just fine; Freeland started in all 13 of the 8-5 Cougars’ games last season, and did not give up a sack. He committed just two penalties.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic has Freeland ranked as the No. 179 player in the draft.

“Freeland’s inexperience and the lesser-developed aspects of his game (leverage points, play strength, etc.) will be exposed by NFL talent, but he has the feet, length and upside to warrant being a mid-round draft pick,” Brugler wrote. “He is a work in progress who should eventually compete for an NFL team’s No. 3 tackle spot and potentially more.”

Another draft analysts, ESPN’s Jordan Reid, told BYUtv that Freeland’s stock is “way up, especially after the NFL scouting combine, where he tested through the roof.”

Reid projects Freeland going to the Washington Commanders in the second round in his latest mock draft. He compares Freeland to Brian O’Neill of the Minnesota Vikings and Samuel Cosmi of the Commanders.

Reid said he could also see Freeland landing in San Francisco because the 49ers are looking for a replacement for Mike McGlinchey, who signed with the Broncos, at right tackle.

That pick would thrill Freeland, because he counts the 49ers among his favorite teams after being born in the Bay Area. Something to watch: San Francisco has three picks at the back end of the third round.

Freeland also grew up cheering for the Dallas Cowboys because Dallas is where his father is from.

Speaking of his father, new Riverton High football coach Jim Freeland played linebacker for the Cougars in 1994 and 1995. Blake’s mother, the former Debbie Dimond, played basketball for BYU from 1991-95 as a 6-foot-3 post player and is the eighth-highest scorer in BYU women’s basketball history.

His older sister, Sierra, competed for BYU’s women’s track team as a thrower from 2017-22.

“We’ve got a pretty athletic family,” Blake Freeland understated.

That family — Freeland also has three younger sisters — will gather Thursday, Friday and Saturday at his parents’ home to watch the draft and celebrate Blake’s rise.

During the pandemic, Freeland says he ate at Cupbop “almost every day” in Provo and struck up a friendship with one of the owners, so the restaurant chain that bills itself as the “Korean BBQ in a Cup” will cater the gathering on Saturday.

One reason that Freeland isn’t sure which teams are most interested in him is the fact that he didn’t get invited on any visits — teams are allowed to bring in up to 30 players — and he didn’t do any private workouts.

“There are times where I am like, ‘Oh man, what does that mean?’ I wish I had a few, but I think I will be OK. I met with so many coaches and so many scouts throughout this whole process. I feel comfortable with it,” he said. 

Freeland’s agents, Collin Roberts and Ryan Tollner of Rep1 Sports, tell him everything is good and he believes them. Former BYU QB Jaren Hall also chose Rep1 Sports.

After the season, Freeland trained in Rep1’s facility in Irvine, California, until a week before BYU Pro Day. Since then, he’s been working out in Bluffdale or at BYU with Dr. Skyler Mayne. And he’s doing very little guessing.

“It is hard to get a good read on teams sometimes, honestly,” he said. “But I have talked to quite a few teams just over the phone and through Zoom and stuff. I really, honestly, have no idea where I am going to land.”

He just knows that he might just arrive in a brand new car.

merlin_2883773.jpg

BYU offensive lineman Blake Freeland (71) celebrates after a touchdown during game against Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

Source link

Related posts

Grass Lake vs Addison LiveStream How To Watch Grass Lake vs Addison Football

School Sports

Broadneck vs Annapolis LiveStream How To Watch Broadneck vs Annapolis Football

School Sports

[[HSF-2022]] Marlington vs Coventry Live Online 19 August 2022

School Sports

Leave a Comment