2015 NFL Scouting Combine Watch List: Late Round Players to Watch

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Sep 6, 2014; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Jesse James (18) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Akron Zips at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Akron 21-3. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O

Jesse James, TE, Penn State

Nittany Lions TE Jesse James, due in part to his large stature, historic name and solid college production, has attracted a bit of a fan following among Raider fans, based on what we’ve seen in the comments sections of some of our articles.

James, who is a 6’7″, 254 pound tower of a man, was the third-leading receiver for Penn State in 2014 with 38 receptions, three of which were touchdowns – the team high. He is widely considered the best strictly Tight End prospect in this draft class, though the best potential TE is probably Michigan’s Devin Funchess. James is the prototypical tight end in terms of his physical type, and shows good hands, good straight-line speed, and athletic ability to make tough catches.

Unfortunately James is also not a particularly strong blocker, and can often be a poor route-runner, especially against man coverage, where he often struggles to get open against smaller defenders. James has a difficult time dealing with physical bump-and-run defenders, which at the NFL level will be a big liability, and he has very slow feet and poor strength for a blocking tight end.

In order to be worth a draft pick to the Raiders or another team, he will want to show well in these events:

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  • 1. Vertical: If he can jump high at 6’7″, it really doesn’t matter too much if he’s slow or has a hard time getting open. A 6’7″ tight end with a good vertical and decent hands will get drafted simply because of the threat he presents in the red zone, where he can go up over pretty much any defender and make the catch on a high ball. While limited speed and route-running ability can limit what he’s able to do on every down, there’s a role for a tall, high-jumping pass-catcher.

    2. Bench Press: In order for James to improve both his blocking ability and his ability to gain separation from defenders at the release point, he will have to show good upper-body strength and ability to use his arms to lock out or push around defenders.

    That’s where the bench press comes in. While he will not need to have elite numbers here, he should be able to get the bar up around 20-22 times, otherwise he is simply not strong enough to play the position on every down.

    3. Pass Routes: The knock on James is that he’s not a very good route runner, though on tape it appears more that he’s just not good at getting separation on his routes. James will likely do very well in executing the routes in this drill without opposition and making catches, which will impress some observers, who may think that a good Tight Ends coach can help him add technique to these fundamentals at the next level.

    Next: Watch List: Final Word