From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Penn State TE Brenton Strange.
#86 Brenton Strange, TE, Penn State (rJR) – 6037, 253LBS
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Brenton Strange||6037, 253lbs||9 5/8||31 1/8||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Plus blocking ability overall
— Keeps a strong base while engaged and drives legs through the whistle consistently
— Delivers a strong punch with well-placed hands inside the defender’s frame
— Total hands catcher, squeezes the ball away from his body
— Understands the soft spots in the zone to sit and present his numbers
— Strong runner after the catch, fights through tacklers and falls forward for maximum yardage
— Plays with great body balance through contact
— Experienced in-line, H-Back and split out wide
— Size concerns are notable, whether his height, hands size or his short arms
— Lack of receiving production overall throughout his career
— Needs refinement in his overall route-running technique, there are plenty of inconsistencies in his release, breaks, and cuts
— Route tree isn’t the most diverse
— Struggles to create separation against press coverage
— Tendency to play over his toes, leading to stumbles in his routes and losing initial contact in blocks
— Birthday: December 27, 2000 (22 years old)
— Four-star recruit out of West Virginia
— Majored in recreation, park and tourism management
— Career Stats: 70 receptions for 755 yards and 11 touchdowns
If tough, stocky tight ends are your thing, Brenton Strange is your guy. The measuring tape is cruel to him, but he operates with that same cruelty against defenders as a blocker and shows plenty of promise as a receiver even with a concerning lack of production.
We’ll start with his blocking because it really stands out on his tape. He was utilized all around Penn State’s offense, lining up as an in-line tight end, H-Back and split out wide. No matter where Strange lined up, he was a capable blocker who consistently moved bodies.
What better way to start than to show off some pancake blocks? In the first clip against Ohio State, Strange plants the Buckeyes linebacker on his back on the first play of the game for Penn State, charging forward as an H-Back. Watch as he keeps a firm base, measures his target, punches up from his hips into the frame of the backer and drives him into the ground, clearing a path for his running back.
The second pancake shows how much of a bully Strange is. He does not offer mercy to this Auburn safety, coming off the line with the same intensity he showed in the previous clip, getting into and under the defender’s frame and driving his legs until the safety hits the turf. This block springs a monster gain for the running back.
His technique is really solid as a blocker. Here are further examples that aren’t quite as devastating but show that Strange brings enough versatility to the table to be truly effective.
First, a reach block against Purdue. Strange gets outside of the edge defender with haste and gets strong hands on to clear out his pulling linemen’s path to pave the way for the runner. Securing the edge is the bulk of the work here and Strange does his job well.
In this clip against Ohio State, Strange meets that familiar linebacker from earlier out in space, again showing that he’s measured in stacking up his assignment and arriving with intention. He doesn’t quite get the seal on the edge, but he does get up field before contact and stays with the defender as the structure of the runner’s lane changes.
How about his awareness as a lead blocker? Strange shows intelligence here against Auburn, helping to clear out the defensive tackle before turning his attention to the free linebacker in the gap and checking him before he can make a play on the running back. Yet again, Strange is the guy clearing the path for his runner to secure chunk yardage.
And yes, he can stay in for pass protection too. Here against Purdue, Strange takes on the edge rusher on his own for the bulk of the rep, getting inside of the defender’s frame and anchoring about as well as you can hope for a tight end.
Taking a look at his receiving acumen, this is where Strange can be tougher to evaluate because his opportunities are sparser. He was dominant against Auburn though, posting career-highs with six catches for 80 yards. In this clip, you’ll see how he gets most of his production: first read, break some tackles and fall forward. The hurdle attempt may be somewhat ill-advised, but he shows off his impressive contact balance.
His toughness as a blocker translates very well to his running ability after the catch. The best and most well-known example is his huge touchdown catch against Purdue. The play breaks down after Strange runs a solid route, gets back into space for his QB, takes the pass in with his hands and then rumbles through some Boilermakers before escaping to the end zone.
To summarize Strange’s receiving, there’s not much nuance in his route running. He doesn’t use his body the way you’d like to see from tight ends in man coverage, though he does get some speed into his routes. His release off the line involves a technical immaturity as he has a bounce reset, though it did fade away deeper into the 2022 season tape. Overall, his route tree wasn’t very diverse, running mostly curls, digs and flats with the occasional wheel route, the latter of which I didn’t see a target for in four games.
I was impressed with his hands though, as every target I saw was a catch with his hands away from his body with just one drop with contact.
The Steelers met with Brenton Strange at the NFL Combine, and while his size profile doesn’t scream ‘Zach Gentry replacement’, his blocking ability does. His poor measurements, average Combine performance and lack of receiving production aren’t going to be as friendly to his draft stock as I am.
That said, I liked the player I saw despite his shortcomings. His toughness projects everywhere on his tape and he shows more promise in his receiving abilities than his stats indicate.
I graded Strange as a late third-round pick after factoring in his size restraints, though all things being equal he’ll most likely be available on Day 3 of the draft. If the Steelers are targeting a tight end late in the draft, Strange is a great option in my estimation to serve as the team’s No. 2 and primary blocking tight end.
Projection: Late Day 2
Depot Draft Grade: 7.7 – Potential Starter/Good Backup (Third Round)
Games Watched: Purdue ‘22, Auburn ‘22, Ohio State ‘22, Michigan ‘22