For the next tight end in our series of NFL Draft prospects who might have caught the Cowboys eye, we turn to Jace Sternberger out of Texas A&M. Just like with Dawson Knox out of Ole Miss, Isaac Nauta out of Georgia, and Irv Smith Jr. out of Alabama, Sternberger played his college ball in the SEC.
In Sternberger’s case, however, his time in the south was for just one season as he came over as a Junior College transfer and made the most of his opportunity in central Texas.
NAME: Jace Sternberger
SCHOOL: Texas A&M
POSITION: Tight End
WT: 250 lbs
Sternberger started out at the University of Kansas as a recruit out of Oklahoma in 2015-2016 but he ended up in College Station in 2018 playing for the Aggies after a pitstop in Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in 2017. 2018 was his lone year of playing any significant amount of time but he turned in one of the most impressive season by a tight end in the college ranks.
According to Sports-Reference.com, Sternberger played in all of two games before leaving Lawrence, Kansas. This past season, Jace played in 13 games while hauling in 10 touchdown passes on 48 receptions. He showed the productivity you would like from a tight end expected to be drafted on day two.
Having only one year of significant playing time and production can be a bit concerning because you really have nothing to base his potential and growth on as far as showing progression from year to year. You can look at his traits and see what he could become at the NFL level, however.
Plain and simple, what the former Jayhawk and Aggie tight end showed is that he can be a weapon in the middle of the field. Finding someone to open up the field between the hash marks is something that the Cowboys missed for most of the 2018 season after the unexpected retirement of future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten. Also, a more vertical presence in the middle of the field is something that the Cowboys need to find this offseason to help out their fourth-year quarterback.
If you want to play for the Dallas Cowboys as a tight end or even a receiver, you better be able to block. Sternberger showed this season that he can indeed get the job done. He showed a lot of technical promise in this area. He was able to withstand taking on edge rushers and anchor down against them, an impressive feat in his first year against SEC rushers.
In a scheme like the Cowboys employ, where they pull their offensive linemen in some run concepts, this is particularly inviting for Dallas to grab a player of his caliber who they can trust to get on the blocks. He will be asked to take on defenders alone and seal off the edge for Ezekiel Elliott or even Dak Prescott. Sternberger showed he has a good mix of strength and ability in order to block effectively, which is always a must for Dallas at the position.
The other aspect for a tight end to work in Dallas is the ability to win over the middle.
Sternberger isn’t the best route runner, which is something coaching can fix, but you have to love what he does as a receiver. He is very physical and doesn’t succumb to first contact after the catch. The former Aggie would definitely become a favorite target with his huge catch radius and his ability to fight through contested catches. He uses his frame well to shield off defenders and come down with the ball.
He has the perfect blend of catching and blocking abilities.
Without proper coaching on route running, Sternberger will fail to create much separation at the NFL level which is possibly why he’s not being talked about as a sure thing first round option. Once he can tighten up his routes, one should believe that creating the necessary separation won’t be an issue. He doesn’t need much with his ability to go up and get the ball when needed, which could mean he won’t be a sure fire red zone option.
Nevertheless, Jace Sternberger can be expected to be selected on day two and he should be one the tight ends that the Cowboys consider with one of their day two selections.
Should the Cowboys aim to keep Sternberger in-state even if it means using their first pick in the draft on him? Make your thoughts known to Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.