NAME: Jace Sternberger
SCHOOL: Texas A&M
POSITION: Tight End
CLASS: RS Junior
JERSEY: No. 81
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 250 lbs
Route-Running – Still learning where to sit down and how to adjust his routes against zone coverage. Needs to be more physical and elusive against chips off the line of scrimmage in his releases, but has shown good hand usage at the top of his route to separate. Very little manipulative footwork to tilt defenders at the top of his patterns as a route runner. Runs a diverse route tree against man and zone, working from in-line and flexed position.
Ball Skills – Catches the ball really well outside his frame, showing strong hands to snag and tuck. Has shown high-point and full extension ability, but will drop a pass here and there. Smooth adjustments to go back-shoulder or up high for the ball when it’s off-target. Big catch radius. Seems to have good hops in limited opportunities to show them off.
Speed – He’s fast. Not Noah Fant fast or anything, but linebackers will have a tough time matching him vertically. Dominated the seam this past season, can do the same in the NFL. Made a ton of big plays in the deep portions of the field.
Run Blocking – My biggest complaint is he consistently targets second level/in space defenders poorly, attacking where they are without reading where they are moving. This puts him at disadvantageous angles to finish blocks well. At the line of scrimmage, has solid technique to get his hands inside and scrap, but is out-muscled more often than you’d like. Pesky and succeeds at getting in the way long enough to be effective. Not a finisher, but works diligently to sustain contact.
Contested Catch – Put in very few contested catch spots this season, but consistently high-pointed the ball and made tough catches outside of his frame. Contact over his back can bother him at times, but has hung onto the ball through some big shots as well. Needs to do a better job of consistently posting up his opponent and using his frame to defend the catch point.
YAC – A true YAC king. Excellent contact balance to bounce off low and high tackle attempts and keep moving. Runs hard through contact and consistently slips away from the first man. Effective stiff arm in his repertoire. Has carried defenders on his back for big gains multiples times this past year on tape. Breaks tackles without being violent or aggressive in his running style. Has the speed to pick up chunks after the catch.
Separation Quickness – Can be sharper out of his break to create separation and not fall off his pattern. Throttles down too much into his breaks, needs to hit it at full speed. Has natural quickness and long speed that help him separate, but attention to detail will enhance this area of his game.
Pass Protection – His process isn’t perfect, but his results are good. Almost always overpowered at some point in the rep, but delivers a good initial shot and plays with better knee bend than he does as a run blocker. Will need work in this area to be counted on in the NFL.
Competitive Toughness – Wouldn’t describe him as a dog, but competes at a high level and gives maximum effort in all situations. Hard worker after the catch and as a downfield blocker. Can get overpowered and tossed around a bit as a blocker, which is a concern.
Athleticism/Size – Size, length and build for the position is ideal. May need to add some muscle at the next level. Very good athlete with ideal long speed for the position.
BEST TRAIT – Athleticism/YAC
WORST TRAIT – Route Running
RED FLAGS – None
The definition of a collegiate one-year wonder, Sternberger was a complete unknown as a prospect before the 2018 season, with one catch for five yards in his first two years at Kansas before heading to JUCO. He made a little noise at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M before Jimbo Fisher scooped him up, and 48 catches for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns later, Sternberger was first team All-American and first team All-SEC.
Physically and athletically, Sternberger is an ideal receiving tight end with good hands and the speed to stretch the field. He’s still growing as a route runner and developing the mental aspects of his game, but few tight ends can make splash plays like he can, both before and after the catch. Sternberger will need to prove he can hang with the big boys as a blocker which could limit his early impact in the NFL, but with his arrow pointing up, I expect he’ll be a late-blooming stud in his second or third year.
Route Running –Really, really smooth. Love how easily he rolls through breaks and carries speed to snap off his angles and create separation. Attacks all three levels of the field effectively and shows a strong feel for finding soft spots in zone.
Hands –Super soft. Easily plucks the ball out of the air. Has shown excellent concentration on tipped passes over the middle on numerous occasions. His catch radius is extensive and has little issue catching the ball at full extension.
Versatility – Has been aligned all over offensive sets: flexed, in an H-back/move role and in traditional in-line formation. Receiving chops are effective in all spaces but the further away from the edge the better blocker he can be. Wins with speed and natural body control as receiver.
Contested Catch Ability –Has made several impressive catches in traffic. Has held onto a few hospital balls that his QB hung him out to dry on. His aggressive approach of the football and his body control to brace for contact are top shelf in this regard.
Run After Catch Ability –Not necessarily the most powerful player but he’s tenacious after the catch and persistent in pulling off of soft tackle challenges. His second gear is good…not elite, though. He’s perfectly capable in space of making someone miss, pretty versatile in this area.
Power At POA –He isn’t going to overwhelm anyone but he’s sticky and shows good foot speed to stay in front of the defender. Had success at the POA as a pin blocker or turn-out blocker on the edge but doesn’t reset the LOS with any power of note.
Competitive Toughness –High effort player in both the run game and as a pass catcher. Not going to tip off defenders with his effort or rolling lazily out of his stance. Functional strength could best be described as “adequate” in the box but shows terrific contact balance after the catch.
Flexibility –No issues with his hinges. Like his mobility through the core to peel back to the football and adjust to poorly thrown passes. His length and extension skills are enhanced by mobility through the shoulders and comfort in extension.
Balance –Dynamic base is pretty impressive, like how easily he generates tilt and lean as he runs to carry momentum and continue to roll through his cut. His ability to absorb contact and continue to push up the field and keep his balance provides a key element in RAC.
Football Intelligence –Three different schools in three seasons but he’s still fairly advanced as a receiver. He’s effective in slipping past bodies in shallow zones and getting momentum and shows pretty clean footwork. Big area of improvement on routes is not being passive at times to cross face.
BEST TRAIT – Contested Catch Ability
WORST TRAIT – Power at POA
BEST FILM – South Carolina (2018)
WORST FILM – Alabama (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
Jace Sternberger is an excellent receiving threat from the TE position and his receiving chops should allow him to get reps early as a rookie. Sternberger has smooth breaks, soft hands, good concentration skills and enough blocking to not be considered a liability at the POA. He needs to continue to add some false breaks on his routes and really focus on his balance and lower body power as a blocker but his three year projection is favorable, can impact pass game year one.
Routes – Fluid route runner that is clean in and out of breaks. Does well to sink his hips and sharply change directions. Challenges the seam and dominates on out-breaking patterns. There is room to grow in terms of nuance and becoming a better route salesman but traits are present for him to evolve.
Hands – Features strong hands and regularly squeezes the football tightly outside of his frame. Illustrates outstanding grip strength to hang on in traffic and through contact. Hands are soft and reliable. Concentration is superb.
Ball Skills – Has great length and does well to extend his catch radius. Tracks the football effectively and adjusts. Makes his share of acrobatic catches and makes it look easy. The game slows down for him when the ball arrives.
YAC Ability – Was highly productive after the catch last season. Tucks and turns quickly after securing the football. Has excellent juice and fluidity with the ball in his hands. Sees the field extremely well and makes excellent cuts as a ball carrier. Competitive and will challenge tacklers with physicality. Effective stiff arm.
Play Speed – Has the athletic ability and ball skills to challenge the seam and push the middle of the defense vertically. Won’t have difficulty separating from linebackers. Excellent burst with the ball in his hands. Not an insane athlete but a very good one.
Play Strength – Modest amount of power as a blocker. Physical route runner that easily breaks through contact at the top of routes. Does a terrific job of using his frame to shield and box out defenders at the catch point. Contact balance as a ball carrier is excellent.
In-line Blocking – I like his technique and effort. He does well to fit his hands and leverage his hips. Keeps his feet involved and generally stays square. That said, he doesn’t have the functional strength to create consistent movement.
Space Blocking – Has success lead blocking into holes by positioning himself well and taking advantage of angles. Angles on the perimeter and second level are hit or miss. Needs some technical work but I think he can be a successful move/utility blocker.
Versatility – Has the athletic ability and ball skills to attack every level of the field as a receiver both in line or flexed. Doesn’t profile as a dominant blocker but his effort and technique serves as a strong foundation to improve if he gets stronger and improves angles in space.
BEST TRAIT – Versatility as Receiver
WORST TRAIT – Contact Power as Blocker
RED FLAGS – None
What a journey Sternberger’s had to this point. After not producing in two seasons at Kansas, Sternberger spent a season in the JUCO ranks before becoming a star in the SEC last season. Sternberger’s smooth mobility, athleticism, ability to create after the catch, hands and ball skills make him an exciting receiving option. He is a true seam-busting threat that will stress defenses in the middle of the field that has room to grow as a route runner but the traits are all present for him to develop. While he isn’t a standout blocker, his technique and effort serves as a strong foundation to improve if he gets stronger and improves angles in space. By Year 2/3, Sternberger can be a dynamic, versatile and productive starter for an NFL offense.