With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: TE Jesse James
Stock Value: Up
A fifth-round pick selected as an underclassman, second-year tight end Jesse James certainly sees his stock going up headed into this season, especially considering the team knew that they were drafting him more for the future than the present.
That point was made obvious when he spent the first half of his rookie season inactive. It was only when an injury occurred that he began to start getting a helmet on game day, but he played well enough that he consistently was made active from then on, and made some not insignificant contributions.
Among them were a touchdown reception, a two-point conversion reception, and a handful of key blocks on big plays for the Steelers offense, and all that combined is certainly enough to go on to paint an optimistic picture for the future of the 6’7”, 260-plus pound tight end.
James figures to compete for snaps to serve as the team’s second tight end behind their new free agent acquisition, Ladarius Green, whom one would imagine will be the primarily player at the position after the Steelers spent $20 million in order to acquire him.
But James has intriguing upside, especially considering how young he still is, having just turned 22 earlier this month. He had a key 22-yard reception in the team’s playoff loss to the Broncos, his second explosive play of the season, displaying his potential to be a legitimate two-way tight end as a blocker and a receiver.
That is a trait that is decidedly lacking elsewhere on the team’s roster, as Green is regarded much more as a receiver, though he will inevitably have to carry out his share of blocking responsibilities. Meanwhile, both Matt Spaeth and David Johnson have a combined 79 receptions between them in 15 NFL seasons. James might well immediately establish himself as a weapon in two-tight-end sets whose efforts are geared toward throwing the ball, since Green and James can pair as receiving threats that defenses will have to respect. Or at least that is the plan for the blossoming James.
While his role is not yet set in stone in terms of the depth chart, he figures to be no worse than the third tight end with liberal usage in two-tight-end sets. He is currently profiting from Green’s downtime from ankle surgery and the amount of time off that Spaeth is receiving due to a badly bruised birth certificate.