The New Orleans Saints tight ends were largely invisible in the passing game in 2018. Veteran Benjamin Watson led the team's tight ends with 35 catches for 400 yards and 2 scores, but the fifteen year pro was not able to produce nearly as consistently as he had earlier in his career. Josh Hill and Dan Arnold combined to catch 28 passes for 335 yards and two scores, but all three players accounted for only 17% of the Saints passing game output. Watson retired at seasons end, and New Orleans signed free agent Jared Cook in hopes of providing a major receiving upgrade for the position. The 32-yr. old Cook will be entering his 11th year of NFL football though, leading many to believe that the Saints will use a draft pick from a deep class of tight ends to add youthful production to this spot. Today's draft profile shows us a player who is a late bloomer, but one who could rapidly develop into a versatile offensive weapon.
Jace Sternberger, TE (Texas A&M)
Sternberger was offered just two FBS scholarships when coming out of Kingfisher High School in Oklahoma, ultimately choosing Kansas over New Mexico. After catching just one pass in his first two years with the Jayhawks, Sternberger transferred to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M college. While there he attracted the attention of then-Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, among others, with his work ethic and receiving skills. When Fisher left Florida State after the 2017 season and became the head coach at Texas A&M, Sternberger enrolled with the Aggies program. He would catch 48 passes for 832 yards, second among all tight ends in the country, and a school record 10 touchdowns in 2018 for A&M, earning 1st team All-American honors.
Sternberger would then showcase above average athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine, finishing with solid marks across the board.
40-yd. dash = 4.75
Bench press = 17 reps
Vertical jump = 31.5 inches
Broad jump = 113 inches
3-cone Drill = 7.19 seconds
20-yd shuttle = 4.31 seconds
60-yd. shuttle = 12.09 seconds
Jacob Tamme (retired)
Jace Sternberger was most effective in college when lining up in the slot and utilized as a second or third receiver, but has shown that he can be effective from anywhere across the offensive formation. He is an accomplished route runner who is fast and smooth out of his breaks, and sets up defenders well with head fakes and double moves. Sternberger is a match up problem for linebackers, and gets deep down the seam quickly. He secures the reception immediately with strong hands, and maintains concentration in traffic. Sternberger has a large catch radius, and good body control when leaping for a reception or adjusting to an off target throw. He has good vision in the open field as a runner, and fights through tacklers for extra yardage. He reads defensive coverages well, making him extremely dangerous near the goal line on option routes.
Sternberger is a willing and feisty blocker, but must improve both strength and technique. He can get knocked off his primary route by physical press coverage, and must establish better positioning in short zones. He can round off his routes at times, limiting his separation, and can be a bit slow to turn upfield after a short reception.
Jace Sternberger is projected to be a second day draft pick, likely coming off the board in the 2nd round, but perhaps even sneaking late in the first round. He should be an immediate contributor in the passing game, and able to make plays against every level of an opposing defense. Sternberger may not be able to break into a starting lineup right away, but could definitely be a factor in both multiple tight end and receiver sets with his pass catching versatility. Smart offensive coaches will use him all over their formation, as he hones his blocking technique. Once his blocking becomes a bit more refined, Sternberger seems likely to become an every down tight end, and one that could be an extremely valuable passing game weapon.