TE Jace Sternberger from Texas A&M will be as good as TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant in the NFL.
There is so much hype around Hockenson and Fant as 1st Round quality players and Hockenson tends to be talked about in breathless whispers as the “next so-and-so” or “a transcendent talent at TE”…well I am a bit confused by all the attention honestly. Where was all of this publicity for the Hockenson kid a year ago? Why weren’t the scouts blubbering about him this time last year to all of the traveling talking heads in order to show them who was coming in 2019 that they could start talking about to look really smart on TV?
I look at college production from both Hock and Fant and I am truly left underwhelmed…where is all the yardage? Where are all the TD’s? I realize scheme largely determines these things plus sets the tone for average yards per catch, but damn boys this is truly an unimpressive. Both Hock and Fant were at Iowa, a very TE focused offense so there were many opportunities. Fant was there a year ahead of Hock and was stealing most of the TE reps and catch opportunities. So sure, they were sharing touches. However, I am still left wondering. Check out the stats for both:
So in all seriousness what exactly was the sudden draw to these two players? Sure they are both excellent athletes but so are many other College FBS Tight Ends. And don’t forget, the hype train left the station WAY before either kid participated in the Combine where the “elite athleticism” was confirmed in drills…I can’t figure out where it really took off but I suspect it’s some highlight catches made by both kids in big games that started the “who the hell made that catch?” narrative. Or maybe when Hock won the 2018 John Mackey Award and the Big Ten TE of the Year Award…those must be easy awards to win since Hock didn’t produce any special numbers.
So now, let’s take a peak at lowly old Sterny (that’s my nickname for Jace Sternberger) who played at Texas A&M which is NOT particularly known as a heavy TE throwing team. Here are his stats:
So Sterny manages to put up one stellar year of production just like Hock. Fant looks good on paper because he lucked out as a 3 year starter at a school that highly prizes the TE position. Whereas Sterny exits High School and goes to Kansas for two years. Apparently, Kansas does not realize there are TE’s on the field. Sterny gets ONE CATCH in two years officially. So he transfers to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M (WTF? Where is that?) trying to find a school that would feed him the ball. It worked, he gets one season in at that lower level, catches 6 TD’s and suddenly all the big schools want to recruit him. Jimbo Fisher comes calling and Sterny falls for the love at A&M.
Unfortunately his romance with Jimbo only lasts one season as he leaves early for the Draft. But he left a mark in that one year. He showed he has some elite receiving skills but also some pretty good blocking. Not excellent, but not a complete disaster. It can be improved to round him out as a true 3 down TE at the next level.
It was when I started working on the Combine results for the TE group that I started to see numbers from Sterny that reminded me EXACTLY of another player who was receiving tons of hype:
Think their results look similar? Can we agree that Sterny looks good on paper versus the kid who is likely a Top 20 pick? What highlights of both players and decide if what is happening on the field is that drastically different either…
One of the most revered Draft evaluators I read described Hock in such glowing terms that I felt like I was reading his personal love letter. When he got to Jace, he called him “undersized”…really? So the fix is in as usual when it comes to super-hyped players that win awards (easy ones) and come from a school that punches out elite TE’s most years.
But I stand here before you to argue that Sterny by Year 3 will be JUST AS GOOD AS HOCK OR FANT. He might lack the advanced blocking skills and technical approach especially in the run game. He gets pushed around a bit but that doesn’t appear to be a strength issue, more leverage than anything. Coachable problem. So our very own Buddy Boy, who drafted Travis Kelce in the 3rd Round, who HIGHLY values the TE position, just might have his eyes on our guy Sterny here. I think that would be smart play too.