Our NFL rookie profile series continues with this analysis of 2019 NFL Draft Prospect Jace Sternberger, TE of Texas A&M. You can also check out all of our NFL Draft Prospect articles here. We will continue to provide you with these in-depth rookie profiles and a ton of other fantasy football rookie analysis right up through the NFL Draft. Stay tuned, and stay ahead of your league!
The tight end position was pretty flat last year when it came to fantasy scoring. Sure, you had perennial studs in Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz, topping 20 points-per-game but save for George Kittle, no one else stood out. Case in point: the fifth-highest scoring tight end (Jared Cook) only averaged just under four more fantasy points than the 17th-highest scoring tight end last year (Vance McDonald).
Now you add the retirement of all-timer Rob Gronkowski and the tight end position is just as meh as ever. But that also means the ability to pick the next stud is just as important as ever. The 2019 NFL Draft has several obvious candidates but also some diamonds in the rough. Is Jace Sternberger one of them?
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Statistics from sports-reference.com.
Statistically, Sternberger is a one-hit wonder. He originally committed to Kansas but saw little-to-no action over the course of his two seasons there. He then went to junior college in the hopes of showcasing the ability being wasted at Kansas and, ultimately, took his talents to College Station.
It ended up being the right call as Sternberger was the top target in the A&M passing game and matched the all-time Texas A&M record for touchdowns in a season by a tight end with ten. He was seventh among all tight ends in college football with 48 receptions and second in the country in yards with 832.
Sternberger had the most success running basic and straight line routes and looks great outside the hashes. On tape, he makes those plays look seamless even having a quarterback that rarely threw to him mid-stride. From there, he can gain solid yardage with his wheels before eventually being caught by a faster defender.
His hands are impressive. As mentioned above, the quarterback can put the ball nearly anywhere in his orbit and he can pluck it out of the air. Didn’t have nearly as much experience on contested and jump balls but did show ability when opportunities presented itself.
Looking at Sternberger’s measurables, nothing really stands out and he is a little undersized at 6’ 4” and 250 pounds. By comparison, players like Kelce and Gronkowski have two inches and ten pounds on him. He also finished in the 21st percentile in bench press with just 17. This lack of size and strength has led to Sternberger being pushed around at the line of scrimmage. His blocking is passable but will need to improve if he’s going to be an every-down player.
His speed (for a tight end) is his best asset. Both his 40-yard dash and 20-yard shuttle times were good for the 60th percentile at the position. That was evident in the game tape mentioned above.
The most recognizable name on Sternberger’s comp list is Brent Celek. When given the opportunity, Celek turned in a handful of TE1 fantasy seasons. He had a four-year stretch (2009-2012) where he averaged 94 targets, 59 receptions, 744 yards and 4.5 touchdowns per season. Fantasy-wise, those averages would have equaled a low-end TE1 this season.
Sternberger won’t, and shouldn’t, be drafted ahead of Iowa tight ends Noah Fant and TJ. Hockenson no matter where each of them are drafted. However, Sternberger could make a run at being the third tight end taken in rookie drafts, depending on which team drafts him. If someone like the Patriots take Sternberger as their Gronk replacement, he’ll sneak into the second round of rookie drafts.
A diamond in the rough, he is not. A very good pass catcher, Sternberger can be productive if dropped in the absolute right situation such as a team that splits their tight ends out wide and targets them frequently in the passing game. And luckily for Sternberger, there are several teams that do just that and he has a good shot to be taken by one of them as early as the second round in the real NFL draft.
But his skill set doesn’t set himself apart from other tight ends in this class. If we go back to the Brent Celek example above, Celek was a very serviceable fantasy tight end who was a perennial started until a better, more well-rounded player (Zach Ertz) showed up.
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