Jesse James Drafted No. 160 Overall By Pittsburgh Steelers
Penn State’s third player is officially off the board, as tight end Jesse James was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the No. 160 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
James, a 6-foot-7, 254-pound target, announced his decision to enter the NFL Draft this offseason, choosing to forgo his senior season at Penn State. His 78 catches for 1,005 yards and 11 touchdowns after three seasons as a Nittany Lion solidified the Glassport, Pa., native as a legitimate offensive threat, receiving attention from NFL scouts for his massive frame and pass-catching ability.
Though James never had more than 40 catches or 400 yards receiving in a single season, the true junior always had a knack for finding the endzone. As a true freshman, five of his 15 receptions went for touchdowns, and his 3 touchdown catches this year were a team-best. He’s been a consistent redzone threat to boot, with seven of his 11 career touchdown catches coming inside the 20-yard line.
Mel Kiper ranked James as the seventh-best tight end prospect following his announcement, the only Penn State player to make any of Kiper’s top 10 lists before Donovan Smith vaulted up the draft boards following a strong combine and Senior Bowl performance. Smith was taken No. 34 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round.
The knock on James that most likely kept him out of the first few rounds is his inability to block downfield. Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com pointed toward his 27 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press during the Uplifting Athletes charity event as a sign of the junior’s strength, but said he’s not as powerful a blocker as his size and strength suggest. However, Rang said James is “broad and competitive enough to seal off defenders,” even if he doesn’t get much push past the line of scrimmage.
James figures to play a key role on the Steeler’s offense next season, providing a big target for Ben Roethlisberger to throw to, especially in the red zone. He joins fellow tight end Heath Miller on the Steelers’ roster, and will compete for playing time once training camp begins this summer. Miller is aging, and certainly won’t be around for that many more years to come; James could provide a strong second option. James looks to join fellow Nittany Lion and current Green Bay Packer Andrew Quarless as prominent Penn State tight ends currently in the NFL.