As we delve further into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has begun to shift towards the draft. Like we’ve done in the past; these reports will cover the prospects of the 2015 NFL Draft, placing an emphasis on those who could help the Steelers the most.
Stepping away from the secondary for a moment and focusing back on the offensive side of the ball. Breaking down Penn State tight end Jesse James.
#18 – Jesse James/TE Penn State – 6’7 254
– Intimidating size with room to grow into his frame
– Long arms and gets them extended
– Slightly above average athlete with a nice burst/snap off the line
– Quality blocker, competent in run and pass protection
– Strength and arm extension helps generates push off the line
– Uses size to win in run game, size to seal
– Can be a vertical threat, size obviously poses matchup issues
– Asked to pull, base block, down block, experience with NFL concepts
– Has toughness to make the catch and difficult to bring down post reception
– Majority, if not all work, came between the tackles, traditional “Y” tight end
– Lots of starting experience despite leaving early
– Appears to have high character
– Production wasn’t stellar, waned down the stretch, no marquee games in 2014
– Struggles to block out in space, falls off too easily
– May struggle to get separation, not particularly crisp in his routes, tries to use size to obtain separation instead
– Lacks long speed
– Could be better at plucking ball better, extending hands away from his body
– Not an elite athlete
– Occasional drop
– 31 career starts
– 2014: 38 catches, 396 yards, 3 TDs
– Never had more than three catches, 32 yards, 0 TDs in final five games of 2014
– Declared early, left school as a junior
– Director of Marketing for school’s Uplifting Athletes chapter, raising money for cancer patients and families
– Local kid, grew up in McKeesport Pennsylvania
– Three-time team captain at South Allegheny HS
Getting off the bus, James is an imposing person. Looks every bit of his 6’7 frame and his length seems to match his height. He’s lean at 254 pounds but obviously has the frame to support adding 10-15 pounds.
We can talk about him as a receiver – and we will soon – but I really like what he does as a blocker. Asked to run block and pass protect and does both admirably.
Lined up all over between the tackles, including in the backfield for pass protection. And with his frame, he can anchor a heck of a lot better than a running back a fraction of his size.
Has no issue picking up this “A” gap pressure against Boston College on third and five.
With his size and solid technique, he gets a nice push in the run game. Lined up as the “Y,” the second man in from the end of the line at the bottom of the screen.
Moments where he flashed down the field as a vertical threat. Hands extended down the seam and absorbs a big hit from the safety, holding onto the ball.
Did see him habitually fail to stick to blocks in the open field when asked to release into the flat on screens. Eerily similar how similarly he failed each time.
His production wasn’t terrible though it’d always nice to see a spike in production each year, something that didn’t happen with James. But Penn State’s offense was stuck in the mud at times. Christian Hackenberg flashed but ultimately threw only 12 touchdowns. Tough to put up stellar numbers in that situation.
James could be compared to a poor man’s Maxx Williams with obviously better value. Experienced, multi-facet blocker with good but not great speed. Williams is still clearly the better athlete with better body control.
James is a solid mid-round selection that would be a good fit as a #2 tight end for the Steelers in his first or second year with the possibility to ascend to a starter down the line.
Projection: Mid 3rd-Early 4th
Games Watched: vs UCF, at Rutgers, vs Boston College (Bowl – Half)
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