Name: Jace Sternberger
Position: Tight End
School: Texas A&M
A one-year wonder with upside and production, Sternberger is one of the premier late risers in the draft. His athleticism and size should merit a second round pick, a shocking turn of event for a guy who had one reception prior to 2018.
While a little lanky at this point, Sternberger’s length and frame are quintessential NFL tight end. He is fairly proficient with using his body when necessary, and shows adequate power through contact both as a receiver and a blocker.
Sternberger runs well and has excellent change of direction to make plays in space. He should be a reliable target between the 20s with his quickness and ability to get open consistently. Sternberger’s leaping is not elite, but he shows excellent body control in the air and has enough explosion to be a threat in the red zone.
Considering Sternberger is as late a bloomer as there is in this draft class, he is quite polished as a route runner. He is extremely smooth and efficient with no wasted movement. While he is a bit cookie cutter with his routes, relying more on sharpness in breaks and body positioning than deception, he has the quickness to get consistent separation. Most importantly, Sternberger has shown that he can run a full, diverse route tree. He is as dangerous in the flat as he is running a skinny post.
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Hands and Ball Skills
While the occasional drop may appear here and there, Sternberger’s hands are smooth and natural. Above all, his ability to adjust in the air is probably his greatest asset at this point. He does not possess the elite catch radius of other prospects, but he separates himself by tracking and attacking off-target throws in traffic. Sternberger’s body control is top tier, and he can shed contact when reaching to grab balls away from his body. He was not a jump ball target per se at Texas A&M, but he has shown the ability to high point anywhere on the field against any manner of coverage.
Like most pass catching tight ends in this draft, Sternberger could use some work as a blocker. That said, his early returns are encouraging. His quickness gets him in good position at the line of scrimmage, and he can get good movement up front when his technique is sound. His quick feet are his greatest asset in the run game. They give him solid leg drive, but more importantly, they allow him to recover and stick to his block when he falls off. Sternberger’s greatest weakness is attacking in space, as he is often wont to take poor angles at the second level.
While Kyle Rudolph brings the strong red zone threat at tight end, Sternberger adds the routes and YAC ability to threaten between the 20s. As pass catchers, they would complement each other perfectly. Plus, when Rudolph moves on in the near future, Sternberger brings ace tight end upside. In the meantime, Rudolph can be the primary option as Sternberger adjusts to NFL speed and improves his blocking. Then Sternberger can take on larger roles over the next couple seasons.
The question, as always, is whether the Vikings want to invest a second round pick into Sternberger when similar caliber tight ends should slip to rounds three and four. Sternberger’s contested catch ability is rare, especially for someone with such limited high level experience. As such, a second round pick for a guy with such immediate impact potential could be warranted.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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