TE Jace Sternberger Fantasy
Why should fantasy owners be excited about tight end Jace Sternberger? Well, for starters he ran a ton of routes at the college level. Per Pro Football Focus, Sternberger ran 415 routes last season which was the second most behind only Josh Oliver for the most routes run at the TE position of the 2019 draft class. He was also the highest graded tight end by PFF in 2018 for his receiving skills and fifth-highest overall at the tight end position. But what kind of athlete is Sternberger?
Now his workout metrics from the combine did not particularly pop off the charts. He ranked above the 56th percentile in the 40-yard dash (4.75), the 57th percentile in size-adjusted speed score (98.1) and 60th percentile in agility score (11.50) via PlayerProfiler.com. But what should excite fantasy owners was his production at Texas A&M. His college dominator rating ranks in the 91st percentile (32.7%), and college yards per reception ranked in the 93rd percentile (22.2). Excited yet?
Per @PFF Most routes run by the TE 2019 Draft Class from 2018:
1 Josh Oliver – 439
2 Jace Sternberger – 415
3 Caleb Wilson – 377
4 T.J. Hockenson – 337
5 Kaden Smith – 319
6 Mik'Quan Deane – 298
7 Charles Scarff – 270
7 Keenen Brown – 270
9 Noah Fant – 241 pic.twitter.com/t7ArAYxXO1
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) March 16, 2019
- Height: 6 ft 4 in
- Weight: 251 lbs
- Arms: 32″
- Age: 23
Sternberger played just one season at Texas A&M before declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft. He finished his career with 48 receptions for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 10 touchdowns match the school record for most touchdowns by a tight end, and his 832 receiving yards ranked second nationally among all tight ends for the 2018 season He was practically not on anybody’s radar entering 2018 either because of his years prior he played at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M and Kansas where he saw little usage.
Eventually, Sternberger wanted to showcase his skills in an offense that featured the tight end position more which is why he chose Texas A&M. Jimbo Fisher had just accepted the head coach position there who runs a tight-end heavy offense. And it paid off.
In an interview with MusicCityMiracle.com Sternberger had some interesting things to say about himself.
What do you enjoy most about playing tight end?
I love running with the football in my hands. Seeing what I can do after the catch gets me excited. I also love making contested catches.
If you could catch a pass from one NFL QB, who would it be and why?
I would honestly have to say Tom Brady because he’s such a legend. Drew Brees is definitely another one.
And the last fact and this should come to no real surprise, but like many tight ends before him, Sternberger as an extensive background in basketball. He played power forward and that helped him excel at the tight end position.
NFL Combine Recap
- 40 Yard Dash: 4.75
- Bench Press: 17
- Vertical Jump: 31.5
- Broad Jump: 113
- 3-cone drill: 7.19
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.31
- 60-yard shuttle: 12.09
Strengths & Weaknesses
His big strength is his yards/reception. In 2018 in the SEC, Sternberger led all players in eight games with at least 17 yards/reception. That was more than big-play wide receivers Emanuel Hall and D.K. Metcalf. He actually led all tight ends in that category with a minimum of 50 targets. If you include receivers in it he actually ranks 15th overall by average. Sternberger ranked first in the tight ends with seven receptions of 20 plus or more downfield and third in total receiving yardage on those same deep passes.
But it’s not just a matter of Sternberger being targeted downfield. His yards after the catch are also exceptional. He ranked third in the class in total yards after the catch behind Caleb Wilson/Keenen Brown and first in yards after catch/reception (8.3). He also ranked eighth overall in yards per route run (2.01). He is a good route runner and can find space in the defense to create a window for a quarterback. That’s what he does in the clip below. Can also make great catches in traffic down the field and in the red zone.
Now, the weaknesses of Sternberger are definitely his abilities as a pass-blocker. He ranked 97th this past year in PFF’s pass blocking grade and 129th in run blocking grade. The pass-blocking is not something too bad especially because it’s on a sample size of just 33 pass-blocking attempts. I imagine in those situations he will probably just be running out for routes. However, run blocking is not good. In the second clip below you see Sternberger trying to make a block at the second level on the strong-side linebacker. However, he fails to get his outside shoulder to the inside of the linebacker making it easier for the linebacker to cross him and get to the ball carrier.
The worst statistic about Sternberger in 2018, which is often overlooked is penalties. Not tight end was called for more penalties than him (8). Most penalties being called for holding. This is a big red flag because nothing pisses off a coach more than penalties.
followed up by less than stellar run-blocking, something he will have to improve at the NFL level pic.twitter.com/oXt1mYWdjg
— Andrew Erickson™ (@AndrewErickson_) March 17, 2019
Best Fit: NFL Scheme
We talk about landing spots for a rookie and how much they weigh on whether a prospect succeeds or fails. It could not be truer for a player like Sternberger because one could argue that he has barely scratched the surface of what he can do. Even at Texas A&M, Sternberger lined up inline more than 75% of the time. He ranked outside the top 25 in slot receptions and outside the top 35 in slot yards. Running routes out of an inline position gives tight ends less flexibility in what they run and their release into their routes. Whereas moving him into the slot or even outside can create more mismatch opportunities for him to expose. It’s funny that he mentioned them, but two teams that are tight-end needy (Saints and Patriots) are two examples he gave of teams he would like to play for. They would both be great spots for him to land for both in real football and fantasy.
Rookie tight ends in the NFL, tend to not do much in their first seasons. This leaves little to be desired from drafting Sternberger in redrafts fantasy leagues or just early on in rookie dynasty leagues. However, there is an upside with Sternberger based on his landing spot. Remember PFF grades are taking into consideration the situation players are in. So it’s not necessarily grading the player in a vacuum. Sternberger was in the perfect spot at Texas A&M which is why he graded so well and part of why he was so prolific. The way he was essentially able to go in there his first season and absolutely dominate targets and touches at over 30% cannot be ignored especially at the tight end position. According to FantasyData.com that records statistics for college fantasy football, Sternberger led all tight ends in fantasy points last season (187.8) in PPR scoring. So be patient with Sternberger, because it did take him a while to break out at the college level.