2017 Steelers Stock Watch – TE Jesse James – Stock Up

With the 2017 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certain players.

And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, have sent their stock rising, falling, or breaking even.

Player: TE Jesse James

Stock Value: Up

This is, of course, the predictable result stemming from the Steelers’ decision earlier this week to release tight end Ladarius Green with a failed physical designation, but it goes without saying that the stock value of third-year tight end Jesse James has just gone up fairly significantly.

While the team does seem to have three players at the position that they like—joining James is David Johnson and Xavier Grimble—the Penn State product is really right now the only one that is approximating the completeness of skill set and consistency of performance that would warrant the designation of starter.

That does not by any means indicate that he is going to excel functioning as the Steelers’ top tight end. One of the major problems that he has exhibited through his first two seasons is the fact that he really struggles to pick up additional yards after a reception. He needs to be able to work through contact to pick up those extra yards. His yards per reception last season was lower than the worst year Heath Miller ever had, and his numbers dipped a lot in his later years.

But he does have a lot to work with, and he should have plenty of opportunity to improve. In a way, this is really his second year, paired with the expected jump in performance. James was an underclassman when he came out of the draft and the Steelers were largely looking at his rookie season as a redshirt year, though he did work into some playing time in the second half of the season.

He is not particularly fast, but he has reasonably solid—not excellent—hands, and he has made strides as a blocker both in pass protection and against the run. It will be important for him to continue to develop in these areas in order for the offense to succeed.

Otherwise he will find himself losing out on playing time to Johnson and Grimble, which at different points of last season occurred relatively often. Johnson drew a lot of blocking assignments, while Grimble was used in hurry-up situations. But a lot more can be written about that aspect of the conversation on another day.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

    screw greeen

  • Steelsmoke

    After the catch he very protective of the ball . He covers with both arms instead of tucking under arm which makes for a more natural running posture.

  • Big White

    ….. but he doesn’t run a fast 40 time!!!!

    – James Critics

  • Big White

    … and his YAC is terrible!!!

  • VaDave

    His best block of the year in that pic!

  • Steelsmoke

    He does a great job of reliable check down without turn over. Every defender goes for the strip on him. His blocking and strength are improving. He is a valuable piece on offense. If you want another seam buster it will cost high pick.

  • NCSteel

    Stock even.
    I never expected Green to contribute more than a couple,
    maybe 3 games this year.
    Turns out I was too optomistic.
    The only unknown at this point is whether they can find a sure hands, cap related, cut out there that is better at getting downfield and making people miss.
    Someone who is not on the roster now but will contribute during the season. You gotta think the front office is looking for that. I like Jesse James but he is not the answer.

  • StolenUpVotes

    Only one ball to go around and with the potential plethora of weapons around him he isn’t going to get many targets anyways. All he has to do is serve his role and he will be fine. The Steelers have won many balls games with little TE production over the years.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I like Outlaw! I like how he plays the game! He’s also not afraid to show out: i.e. his td celebration! I hope he gets a tad stronger and also I think he doesn’t realize yet how good he could actually be! I hope the hunger builds inside of him to where he demands the football or knocks a defender’s block off! I’m ready!

  • Ace

    I want what he’s having.

  • I like James as a #2. Gary Barnidge with 4.61 speed, rock solid hands [PFF once noted he caught more consecutive passes over the middle, 33, without a drop than any other TE over a three year span], and known as a good blocker, he’d be an upgrade over any other TE on our roster and maybe over L Green–if Green could play–due to Barney’s ability as a blocker making the offense less predictable.

  • Chris92021

    Why I am excited about Jesse James in 2017:
    1. his age. James will be 23 in week 1. 23 going into year 3. James is only 4 months older than our 1st round pick this season, T.J. Watt.
    2. if the Steelers have their full complement of WRs and RBs, James is guaranteed to see single coverage every time. James might lack the athleticism to consistently beat double teams (which is why I am forever grateful for Antonio Brown) but he definitely can cause match up problems in one-on-one situations, especially in the red zone. All four of his career TDs have come inside the 10 yard line, at least two of them were uncontested.

    Now, you have to temper your expectations for James and other TEs. In 2016, we got 75 catches for 840 yards and 6 TDs from our TEs with James accounting for about 40 percent of the yards and more than half the catches and half the TDs. In 2015, we got 70 catches for 601 yards and 3 TDs from our TEs (Heath’s last season). In 2017, if we can get James to go from 39 catches in 2016 to 50 and from 338 yards to 500 and 3 TDs to 5, would you be pleased? I certainly would be. I think 50/500/5 are attainable numbers for James. He’s not Gronkowski or Kelce and we shouldn’t expect him to be. However, he can be a reliable target who is still improving as a blocker and did not miss any games last season.

  • Brenton deed

    He seems like the sort of player who will continue to improve by increments for about six years and then with age and injuries will incremently regress. In other words: no big leaps. He’s still good value for a fourth (?) rounder.

  • Conserv_58

    The worst in the league.

  • Terrible Towlie

    ODOM….this year’s out of nowhere star

  • Terrible Towlie

    I agree, he has got better every year