One of the most difficult positions to project, as to whether or not they will transition well into the NFL ranks, is without a doubt, the Tight End position. The dilemma becomes even more perilous when you attempt to project their first year fantasy impact. For that matter when they may begin making an impact altogether. For every Rob Gronkowski & Aaron Hernandez there are dozens of tight ends who never ascend to becoming consistant production plays, in year one. This is why it is best to temper any expectations out of the tight end position, especially in their first year. In fact, there are a number of issues that will need to be ironed out before a young tight end will even begin making an impact at the NFL level.
Therefore, the best we can do, as dutiful Dynasty owners, is to first identify which teams might be in line for a changing of the guard, then examine the type of offensive system they are in and whether or not the tight end position is called upon for impact production. Once you have completed these first two steps we can narrow down the search with greater ease. This article will examine one such player which not only possesses the pedigree, but also happens to be in an offense tailor made for tight end production. It is important to note that his predecessor continues to find himself playing at less than 100%, while age and wear and tear continue to make themselves apparent. The player to keep an eye on, is the Pittsburgh Steelers mammoth, rookie tight, Jesse James.
Who is Jesse James?
Jesse James is a first year NFL player out of Penn State. Standing at a giant 6 feet 7inches tall with an athletic 254lbs. build, James certainly stands out in a crowd. He entered the NFL as the 160th overall pick by the Steelers, which led some to assume he would be groomed as the heir apparent to Steeler fan favorite, Heath Miller. Although the college numbers on James were less than elite, his lack of production can be attributed to the limitations utilizing the tight end positon within the Nittany Lions offensive scheme. However, in spite of his limited usage, James did break Penn States record for all-time career touchdowns by a tight end with 10.
The Combine Coming Out Party
During the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, James put on display his incredible athletic ability cementing himself as a “must watch” participant. James posted a best time of 4.83 in the 40-yard dash, a 37 ½ inch vertical and an eye-popping 10-foot-1 broad jump (Note: his broad jump bested tests by both, Jimmy Graham & Rob Gronkowski). Needless to say, there was a lot of rubber necking going on as Scouts oogled over his natural athleticism.
Steady as She Goes
The rookie season for James has gone pretty much too plan, if you are an evaluating member of the Steeler front office. Through the first 14 weeks of his NFL career, James has posted 7 receptions for 53 yards and a lone touchdown on 10 targets. Certainly his usage has been more than limited since Miller has drawn the starts, when healthy, and will continue to be slotted over James for the foreseeable future. The takeaway, for myself, is that even in ridiculously limited opportunities James has just under 8-yards per reception and was able to get a taste of the end-zone in week 9.
However, the numbers I am making myself most aware of are the averages for the TE incumbent, Heath Miller this season. Thus far, Heath Miller is averaging just over 9 yards per reception, which is the lowest, in a single season, he has ever averaged. Should Miller finish the season at this pace, he will finish with less than double digit yards per reception for the first time in his career. Another telling truth, when injuries and Father Time collide, production takes the greatest hit.
Summary: The Outlaw versus The Sheriff
Make no mistake, Heath Miller still holds the keys to the Sheriffs office, as the starting Tight End in the Steel city. However, James certainly gives cause to the belief that by the time the torch is passed he will be more than ready to ascend into the starters role and make an impact for the Steeler brass and by extension, those patient Dynasty owners. Ultimately, now may not be the time to strike, unless you have expanded rosters where you can quietly stash him. However, Jesse James is a player to keep close tabs on. In the event Miller misses more games and if James can continue his evolution, I envision great things happening for this young man and wouldn’t want to miss out on adding him to my Dynasty roster.
Thanks for reading. You can find me on Twitter @DynastyFFactory.