After Hockenson and Fant, there are a lot of rookie tight ends in the 2019 NFL Draft that could still be dynasty studs at the position. Irv Smith and Jace Sternberger are two of them.
This 2019 tight end class has T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant sitting atop most people’s rankings. There are several other tight ends that will range from the late first round (maybe) to the middle rounds that have a chance to be top contributors in the NFL.
The NFL needs tight ends, and there are a lot of different options in the 2019 NFL Draft. Draft capital is going to be key to sifting through some of these prospects after the draft and finding the value for your dynasty fantasy football leagues. Irv Smith and Jace Sternberger figure to be among the top options after Hockenson and Fant.
Smith didn’t test as well at the combine as many would have hoped. He ran a nice 40-yard dash time and had a good three-cone, but the rest of his athletic profile was pretty underwhelming. As an undersized tight end, this is concerning. He isn’t going to beat defenders with his size or with his athleticism, so he is going to have to win in other ways.
Luckily, Irv Smith has the tools to do just that.
Irv Smith is a good natural route runner with good lateral agility and the instincts to find holes in zone coverage, sit down, and make himself available to the quarterback. He does a nice job of working back to the QB and presenting himself as a target.
Smith has good, natural hands and has very few drops. He transitions from pass catcher to runner very quickly and gets up-field in a hurry. In open space, he may not be the most elusive or fastest guy on the field, but he runs strong and has a nice stiff arm move that he uses to pick up yards on the way to the sideline. He fights for yards and projects to be an asset after the catch, despite his average athleticism.
Smith tracks the ball well down the field and has good hand placement when letting the ball drop to him in the vertical game. He should excel in working downfield in the NFL, especially given his good long speed.
Smith is a good blocker in the run game, and he isn’t going to be a player that needs significant development in this area to be able to see the field early in his career. His snaps won’t be limited by his pass catching or blocking, so he should see opportunities earlier than most of the tight ends that will be selected later in the NFL Draft.
He doesn’t always extend away from his frame to catch the football, which compounds the issue of his smaller wingspan, giving him a less than dominant catch radius. This is one of my primary concerns with his game.
The second major concern that I have with him is that there aren’t a lot of examples of his ability to catch the football in contested catch situations. I’m not nearly as concerned about this for him as I am for some other players in this draft class. He plays physical, has soft hands, and a bigger frame than the receivers that have this hole in their profile.
Smith has the advantage of draft capital. He is the only tight end, outside of T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant that I think have a real shot of being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. That immediately pencils him in as the TE3 in your rookie drafts.
I would be comfortable taking Irv Smith anywhere in the second round of rookie drafts after T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant.
While I prefer Irv Smith, Jace Sternberger is another really interesting tight end prospect to look at in your 2019 dynasty fantasy football rookie drafts. I think that he is going to fall farther than he should in drafts. He is currently going somewhere in the round three range.
For a tight end that could be a potential playmaker in the NFL, that is too low. There aren’t enough good, producing tight ends to warrant passing on rookie tight ends that can make a legitimate difference at the next level. There just aren’t enough guys in the league that can put up points.
Jace Sternberger tested as a pretty average athlete at the NFL Combine. This actually surprised me a good bit. He looks to have really good athleticism on tape, so the testing numbers don’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
If we accept that those numbers are representative of his athletic profile and that he didn’t just have an off day at the combine, you have to reconcile the things that he is able to do on tape.
Sternberger is an excellent route runner, crisp out of his breaks, and runs extremely well. His athletic profile suggests that he doesn’t have elite change of direction ability or explosion out of his breaks. However he is crisp and shows good attention to detail to create separation at the top of his routes.
Jace Sternberger is extremely smart after the catch and has a good understanding of how to maximize his yardage. He takes good angles upfield, manipulates the angles of defenders, sets up blocks, and varies his speed. He isn’t as physical as Irv Smith, but he is good in his own right with the ball in his hands, and he moves better than Irv does.
While Jace Sternberger isn’t a great blocker, he is a willing one. He doesn’t have great drive in his run blocking, but he isn’t incompetent. He may lose some snaps early in his career due to his lack of power in the running game. With better technique, he should be more than serviceable as a blocker to remain on the field.
Unlike Smith, Jace Sternberger does an excellent job of catching the ball away from his body. Sternberger also extends to high point the football well. He excels in contested catch situations and has no problem playing physical at the point of attack. He projects as an immediate threat in the red zone in the NFL. His ability to create separation, make contested catches, and provide a large catch radius to the quarterback should get him some looks in the end zone.
I feel comfortable taking Sternberger late in round two of dynasty rookie drafts if you are really tight-end-needy. If not, you can wait on him. I’d be targeting him anywhere in round three with the other three top tight ends off the board.