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Cory's Corner: Sternberger Will Turn Heads

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Cory's Corner: Sternberger Will Turn Heads

The Packers will need some production from this year’s rookie class. The one rookie that should stand out right away is safety Darnell Savage. He is the perfect complement to free agent acquisition Adrian Amos.

But the one guy that is my pick to raise eyebrows is tight end Jace Sternberger. Here’s a guy that is the epitome of versatile because he can line up all over the field. And because of that, it should be easy to spot mismatches when smaller defensive backs are lined up across from the 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end. 

When you look at his 4.7 40-yard time, you’re not that impressed, but it almost looks like he glides when he’s running his routes. And after he uses his impressive catch radius to snag passes, he does an excellent job to stay upright and not go down. Many have said that Sternberger has the best hands of any tight end in this class. I just need to see how his mitts respond to catching a cold rock in December. 

What really intrigues me is that Sternberger had 8.3 yards after the catch last year. That’s an impressive number for a tight end — especially one that was perceived to be a tad slow. 

“I’ve always been good running with the ball ever since a young age,” he said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “It’s been one of those things that I just kind of tell myself I’m not going to let one person bring me down and just run until it’s a gang tackle.”

Couple that with 17.33 yards per reception and Packers coach Matt LaFleur should be quite excited about Sternberger’s big play potential. It’s even more exciting that Sternberger has gotten even better ever since the arrival of Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher and his pro style offense, which is an even bigger selling point for Sternberger. 

Now, I don’t think Sternberger will turn heads right away, but after he gets a few NFL snaps under his belt, the tide will slowly turn. Aaron Rodgers will fall in love with his huge target and his willingness to do anything for the ball. LaFleur will appreciate that he keeps the sticks moving and he is an absolute beast in the red zone. Of all the pass catchers in all of the 130 NCAA Division I teams, Sternberger was tied for 11thwith seven touchdowns. That’s pretty surprising because there was only one other tight end ranked that high. 

The Packers need some production at the tight end spot because Jimmy Graham turns 33 in November and Marcedes Lewis turns 35 next week. The position has lacked a dynamic playmaker since Jermichael Finley in 2011. 

Now is the perfect time for Sternberger to be that guy. What’s nice is that he can learn from two strong veterans — Graham for his receiving prowess and Lewis for his excellent work as a blocker. 

The only question mark now is Sternberger himself. How big of a jump can he make in training camp and how quickly can he form a bond with Rodgers? 

 

 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (63) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Savage57's picture

A lot of people have been saying the Packers didn't do anything in the draft at the WR position to help Rodgers.

Are they nuts? They drafted the biggest WR out there.

Half the questions about who's going to line up in the slot were answered when they called this guy's name.

porupack's picture

>>>>Half the questions about who's going to line up in the slot were answered when they called this guy's name.<<<<

Perfect, Savage57!

TheVOR's picture

He's a TE, not a WR...

Savage57's picture

You just think he's a tight end.

Hawg Hanner's picture

So what, he's a target and another weapon,

Rossonero's picture

Just like Jimmy Graham is a TE? He's basically a big WR because he doesn't block (or struggles to).

TheBigCheeze's picture

Rossonero....Just like Jimmy Graham is a TE? He's basically a big WR because he doesn't block (or struggles to)"......Graham doesn't CATCH, either......

Old School's picture

Yeah, but even a 6' 7" 265 pound bush is going to slow you down some.

Graham, throughout his career, has been a difficult matchup when he goes to the slot because you end up guarding him with a 6'0', 195 lb guy and that's a hard cover.

If we run as much of the 2-2-1 package as I think we will, then Graham and/or the #2 WR is going to be in single coverage a lot. Adams is a guy that has to be doubled quite a bit of the time so that only leaves two DBs to cover Allison, for example, or Graham.

Of course, the defense could go to the nickel but then the problem is that a seven man offensive line has 8 gaps and you've only got six run defenders. But that's another story.

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The "not catching" stuff is nonsense. This guy was a HOFer when he arrived and he just posted one of the best seasons for Packer TE in history.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

He's smooth like a larger version of Greg Jennings.

PeteK's picture

Jennings? I would be ecstatic if he turns into a version of Chmura.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Chumra ran a 5.03 40, but he did have an incredible feel for spacing and excellent hands.

Just to compare Jace is 0.4 faster than Chumra, and Veron Davis was 0.3 faster than Jace.

Old School's picture

On all the video I've been able to find on him, that's the quality that stands out to me: His smoothness. He's very polished as a route runner.

If you are old enough to remember Paul Warfield.....that's who kept popping into my mind when I was watching. He was so smooth that he looked like he was standing still when he ran past you.

I think he'll be a good player for us for the next four years. I don't think his rookie year will be a big pass catching year. Indeed, unless Graham or Lewis is injured, I think Sternberger and Tonyan will fight for snaps left over but both will contribute on special teams.

RCPackerFan's picture

While I like Sternberger and I think he will play a role I just will say we need to temper expectations on what his production will be as a rookie. Perhaps at the end of the year he will get more playing time, its just I wouldn't expect a lot early.

TE is one of the hardest positions for a rookie to come in and be productive. Most TE's usually take a big leap in year 2. I would expect something similar. With 2 proven veterans ahead of him he will have time to develop.

My expectations is that Sternberger will come in and learn from Graham and Lewis, playing a role in the offense and next year he will get more time and his production will go up.

Savage57's picture

I'm not a fan of this thinking. Players improve and produce by playing, not watching.

Hopefully, the role JS will play for the Packers won't be as much a traditional TE, but more so a larger-than-most WR who makes his living in the historically Kryptonite area for the Packers, that space between hash marks.

RCPackerFan's picture

I get that we want him to play. But he right now is behind 2 proven veterans. Its going to be hard for him to start in front of them. And even hard for him to put up big numbers. I do think he can play in a role though. Perhaps used in certain packages and whatnot.

Most rookie TE's are not overly productive. Not saying that he won't play, and not saying he won't have some success. But to expect him to come in and set the world on fire, it would be rare.

Here are some of the best TE's over the last however many years. What they did in their rookie year followed by what they did in their 2nd year.

Rob Gronkowksi one of the best TE's to come into the league had 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 TD's as a rookie. Really good numbers. His 2nd year he had 90 catches for 1327 yards and 17 TD's.

Jimmy Graham as a rookie had 31 catches 356 yards and 5 TD's. His 2nd year he had 99 catches 1310 yards and 11 TD's.

Antonio Gates had 24 catches 389 yards 2 TD's as a rookie. His 2nd year he had 81 catches 964 yards 13 TD's.

Greg Olson had 39 catches 391 yards 2 TD's as a rookie. His 2nd year he had 54 catches 574 yards 5 TD's.

George Kittle had 43 catches 515 yards 2 TD's as a rookie. His 2nd year he had 88 catches 1377 yards 5 TD's.

Zach Ertz had 36 catches 469 yards 4 TD's as a rookie. His 2nd year he had 58 catches 702 yards 3 TD's.

Vernon Davis had 20 catches 265 yards 3 TD's as a rookie. His 2nd year he had 52 catches 509 yards 4 TD's.

Austin Hooper had 19 catches 271 yards and 3 TD's as a rookie. His 2nd year he had 49 catches 526 yards and 3 TD's.

I expect something similar from Sternberger. Anywhere from 20-40 receptions and maybe in the 3-500 yard range up to 5 TD's. Those would be good numbers for a rookie. Then basically double those next year. Not saying he can't do better, but just looking at what all these TE's did their rookie years, they didn't put up monstrous numbers.

Trapped in MN BUT GB fan's picture

Any production from a TE would be an improvement.

Razer's picture

I hear you. Since McCarthy, TE has been a forgotten position, followed by RB. Looking forward to a multi-pronged attack.

Old School's picture

Every pass that we throw to the TE is a run we didn't use. Every pass that we throw to the TE is a pass that isn't being thrown to the RB, or the WRs.

Me? I'm an Ed West guy. I like TEs that get their man blocked, and who can catch two passes for 15 yards in a game. I would much rather throw to Adams and Allison and MSV than to the TE. I'd rather hand the ball off to Williams or Jones than throw it to the TE.

There's only one ball. Put it/keep it in the hands of your best players: Rodgers, Adams, Jones/Williams. Between targets and touches that should be better than half our plays and offensive yardage. 10 targets of Adams, 25-30 targets/touches for Jones and Williams.

That'd be about 35-40 plays. For the remaining plays....certainly less than 30, maybe only 25 or so.....spread the ball around to the TEs and remaining WRs. Allison, MSV, ESB, Graham, Lewis, Sternberger, Tonyan, Kumerow, etc. depending on your health and matchups.

That's just me. I wouldn't have the TE as a big part of my passing offense other than as a safety valve or at the goal line. And I wouldn't pay big money for him, either.

Samson's picture

Check your calendar.--- Mine says the year is 2019. --- "Yesterday is dead & gone". (Shotgun Willie)

porupack's picture

OS;
Here are my list of issues on your post above;

1) why unnecessarily put a pre-determined cap on a position like TE; only 2 catches per game, or redzone? If he can move chains, then use him to move chains same as anyone else.

2) if you want half the plays to your best playmakers, then why not consider a TE, should one fall in your lap, to be one of them? If TEs aren't one of them, then improve scouting or drafting.

3) Why give opponent teams a statistical advantage to gamble by allocating scheme, target or double team your 'best playmaker receivers' knowing you clearly underplay your sneaky TE (the knight) chesspiece?

Otherwise, I agree with you; spread the ball around depending on matchups and don't spend big money on TEs or other players (unless necessary to ensure GB has exceptional talent).

jannes bjornson's picture

The offense should be hitting around 70 plays per game running the WCO with a top end QB. No more three and outs. The circus has left town. Those that cannot block will be replaced. Those who cannot catch will be cut. This team still lacks a power element to their running game. We'll see how it goes come September with their one-cut running backs.

Old School's picture

It's not a cap; it's what I'm happy with. Remember the old Chicago Bulls? Did you want the ball in the hands of Jordan Pippen or was it OK to use Oakley to jack up a three pointer?

70 plays a game. You want to target Adams about 10 times.
60 remaining. I'd like to see Jones and Williams get 30 of those touches, either as runner and receivers.

30 remaining, and just distribute them among Allison, MSV, ESB, Kumerow, Graham, Lewis, Sternberger and Tonyan.

I would think that since you're paying Graham the most, he'd get about six targets a game, like last year.

Now you're down to 24. Allison? How many?

Do you see my point? There's only one ball. Keep it in the hands of your best players as much as you can. On this team, that's Rodgers, Adams, Jones/Williams, and Graham.

porupack's picture

OS,
yep. Get your point. Its reasonable if this is just an initial game basis plan, or an occasional review checkpoint; but ultimately, the distribution of targets would be based on player output, playmaking success ratio, and matchups, or the game strategy of attacking that defense to set up other scenarios. Less comfortable if position per se, influences this distribution.
Wouldn't look as pretty, but if Mercedes Lewis, a fullback, or I don't even care if its an eligible lineman that picks up 8 yards per play, converts 3rd downs, and has a 100 yard afternoon, I'd like to think the distribution might trend differently..

Old School's picture

It's not a cap; it's what I'm happy with. Remember the old Chicago Bulls? Did you want the ball in the hands of Jordan Pippen or was it OK to use Oakley to jack up a three pointer?

70 plays a game. You want to target Adams about 10 times.
60 remaining. I'd like to see Jones and Williams get 30 of those touches, either as runner and receivers.

30 remaining, and just distribute them among Allison, MSV, ESB, Kumerow, Graham, Lewis, Sternberger and Tonyan.

I would think that since you're paying Graham the most, he'd get about six targets a game, like last year.

Now you're down to 24. Allison? How many?

Do you see my point? There's only one ball. Keep it in the hands of your best players as much as you can. On this team, that's Rodgers, Adams, Jones/Williams, and Graham.

Old School's picture

I don't suppose it even matters to you that Jimmy Graham had one of the best seasons for a TE in Packer history last year? That he was the 2nd leading receiver on the league's 9th rated passing offense?

No production. Got it.

Cubbygold's picture

don't ruin a good narrative with facts

sonomaca's picture

Much depends on whether Graham can stay healthy (and on whether he can still play at all. Also, be interesting to see what Tonyan brings.

Old School's picture

Graham has a long history of staying on the field. Even last year, when he was freezing his keister off in a meaningless game for a team that was out of contention, he played with a broken hand while others drew checks in the hot tub.

Considering that he just had one of the best seasons for a TE in Packer history, I think it's a reasonable assumption that he can still play.

Tundraboy's picture

I agree. I love this pick more and more. And now with a coach that looks like he would actually use him, I'm ecstatic. What a far cry from last year and monstrous improvement over McCarthy ,who would scarcely use him save for a couple plays and then nail him to the bench until the following year. Not expecting huge stats but a positive addition that will benefit from game experience. But I also feel we found something big this time,and maybe our new TE next year and the rest of Rodgers career.

Samson's picture

Sternberger will play earlier than most think. --- Production on the field is all that matters. -- His competition for snaps are an over the hill TE, a blocking TE and a vastly unproven TE who has caught all of 4 passes in an NFL career.... Sternberger will get snaps by default.

RC ....
You're still in the MM mode. ... MLF is a win now coach.

RCPackerFan's picture

Samson -
For the record I'm not in the MM mode. I'm just looking at the situation and what history tells us about rookie TE's.

I think Sternberger will play. But look at the list I just did above of some of the best TE's and the production they have had. I like Sternberger and think he will play, I just don't expect him to put up big numbers. To expect that, especially when he has 2 veterans ahead of him is a bit much.

Why I say lets temper our expectations.

porupack's picture

Ok, I'll temper my expectations as you say;

>>>Rob Gronkowksi one of the best TE's to come into the league had 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 TD's as a rookie.<<<

Thus;
(41) catches (545) yards and (9) TD's will be my ceiling for Sternberger

He probably won't reach Gronkowski's numbers :)

RCPackerFan's picture

LOL Fair enough.

4thand10's picture

Last year was Grahams first year with The Packers, team was new to him, offense was new to him and he racked up 600+ yards.

Old School's picture

I would argue that you are still in the MM mode with your focus on passing. I think we are going to run more and pass less and Sternberger will make a small contribution as a receiver.

Next year, it is possible that Graham and Lewis will both be gone and that will be when Sternberger really emerges.

Samson's picture

It won't take much to run more, Old Stool..... That's all MLF has stated.---- You forget, AR is still the QB.--- He's paid big bucks to move the offense down the field. --- GB will still be passing more than they run in 2019.

Old School's picture

Thank you for the gratuitous name calling. Always nice to be reminded of my time in 2nd grade and I've found it almost always accompanies an assertion based on hot air.

Rodgers is still the QB. I didn't forget that. So that's wrong.

He is paid big bucks. To move the offense down the field. Also to execute the coach's offense. So you are only half-wrong there.

GB will still be passing more than they run in 2019. Probably. I never said they wouldn't. I said we're going to be passing less. Less, as in less than 640 times we threw last year.

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LaFleur has said he intends to run the ball more. Considering we were last in the league in attempts last year, he could run the ball one more time, still be last in the league, and say "See, we ran it more".

But I don't think that's what his intention is. I think he intends to run it at least 7 more times/game, or about 100 more times over the season. And because runs keep the clock moving and shorten the game more than passing, that doesn't mean 100 less passes.....it probably means more than that.

Old School's picture

The "over the hill TE" you refer to is Graham, I'm guessing. Another way of saying that would have been "Future HOFer coming off one of the best seasons for a TE in Packer History". Oh, and he's making $14 million because the people running the show want to pay him that much to sit on the bench while a rookie plays.

Sheesh.

Lewis is a blocker, and a good one, and he's here because we're going to run the ball more and throw it less. If you don't understand that, then you're still stuck in MM mode. No single TE is going to be targeted 90 times like Graham was last year. Jones and Williams are going to get more than 10 touches per game.

Sternberger and Tonyan should both make the 53. They'll play special teams. But unless Graham or Lewis is injured, there just isn't going to be many snaps for Sternberger or Tonyan. This year. Next year is a different story. We have him under contract for four years.

jannes bjornson's picture

He's already ahead of Tonyan and will be able to go double TE sets as a receiver if the coaches let him. It would be nice to move on Rudolph if the viqueens cut him. Get some firepower for the offense and try to contend.

4thand10's picture

Kyle Rudolph had about what Graham had last year...64 receptions, 634 yards and 4 tds... 9.9 yards averageand he’s been with Minnesota for awhile.

Graham.. 55 receptions, 636 yards, 2 TDS 11.6 yards average and in Jimmys own words, that was an “off” year for him. If feel it’s worth mentioning again that he was on a new team (GB) , had a new QB and a different offense....Pass on Rudolph.

Packer Fan's picture

I hope he will help. All the hype will need to be proven on the field.

PackfanNY's picture

I think we will notice Sternberger immediately because I suspect LaFleur will utilize him in the red zone because of his height. Scoring a few TD’s will get you noticed. I think as he develops during the season we will see him more between the 20’s.

dobber's picture

"I think we will notice Sternberger immediately because I suspect LaFleur will utilize him in the red zone because of his height."

Packers WR/TEs likely to make the 53 (and figure as pass-catchers on game day) who are shorter than Sternberger's 6'4": Davante Adams (6'1"), Geronimo Allison (6'3"). Tall is not hard to come by in GB right now. ;)

rdent's picture

The first thing I thought after Cory's comment on JS height was ya sure but remember St Brown, MSV, Allison, Kumerow and Moore are 6'3" to 6'5"so yes AR has a stable of tall receivers to throw to.

Old School's picture

Jimmy Graham is 6'7" and he can leap. A definite mismatch on the 6'1" DB guarding him.

jannes bjornson's picture

The TEs run around 250-270 lbs. A bit more stacking ability than a WR.

stockholder's picture

Saw a grade on the Packers draft, B, that Sternberger was their best pick. (To succeed quickly) I hope Gary is not Nick Perry. Why isn't anybody saying better things about Gary. @12 Somebody should have said Impact ! While Savage was a guy they liked. Liked? My new question is; How long will Pettine stay in Green Bay? 1 year for improvement. 2 years for winning again. 3 years for glory?

Packers2019's picture

All of you do realize that we are talking about a 3rd round pick that was not the top TE in the draft. He may not turn into anything. It is great to excited but there are a ton of 3rd round picks that are in the league 2-3 years and are done.

Maybe we should see this guy on the field with pads on and against top NFL talent before we start saying he is the next coming of Gronk.

porupack's picture

Optimism, baby. Disappointments be damned.

Samson's picture

You're right. --- Nothing wrong with seeing the upside. -- There are still Packer Fans who don't realize that this is a new regime, roster & season.... Some fans are still in the dark & need to be drawn to the light. -- They'll all see the light when GB is 6-2 at the halfway mark.

croatpackfan's picture

I believe we can found more WR and TE playing substantial roles in todays NFL which were drafted in 2nd and 3rd round. More than WR & TE drafted in the 1st round....

jannes bjornson's picture

Kelce was a third round pick. Andy Reid utilized him right off the bat.

porupack's picture

Perfect, Cory, calling us to expect a modest, but noticeable impact. And there is good opp behind JGraham and MLewis just as you say:

>>>Now, I don’t think Sternberger will turn heads right away, but after he gets a few NFL snaps under his belt, the tide will slowly turn.<<<

Optimism, baby, disappointments be damned.

Lphill's picture

This was the Tight end on their board except I'm sure Hockenson who they knew would not make it to 12.

stockholder's picture

Replaces Ronyan. Replaces Lewis. Good pick. Packers will go 2 Tes.

Duke Divine's picture

Title of this article is missing "maybe, in 2021."

Rossonero's picture

RCPackerfan beat me to it, but I was going to say as much. 2019 will have a few touchdowns for Sternberger, but we'll get to see him really blossom in 2020 once Jimmy Graham is presumably gone. I am really excited about this pick.

Sol's picture

I am not sure who will be our TE, but just having guys at that position that can get open, willing to catch balls and block increases you odds by 20% of keeping opposing defenses off balance. As long as the bad guys know the TE is going to get a good look every time AR progress through his route tree.

It helps you control who the other teams have to play on defense. That my friends will open a whole new cookie jar that the Packer's haven't had for quite sometime.

Go Pack Go

Southside's picture

When all is said and done this guy will be one of the top tight ends taken in this years draft. Probably the best. He has what people call "it". You can see it in his videos and he can be moved around. Very versatile. He is going to be special and will be a huge get for Rogers.

Leftcoaster's picture

want his jersey. Being 87 and all. Still not for sale, is this because he hasn't signed a contract yet?

Lare's picture

Sternberger is the last rookie to sign his contract.

Not sure what he is waiting for,

IceBowl's picture

Lare,

A sign!

IceBowl's picture

What he says gives me optimism.

If he plays like he talks, the Pack has nothing to worry about (same as all their draft picks).

We will SEE!!!!

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