Pro Day Tour: ‘Freak’ at Tight End

Penn State tight end Jesse James added a fast 40 time to his standout work at the Scouting Combine. Plus, who was the small-school receiver a top Packers scout saw? That and more as we followed the Packers' scouts to seven pro days.

Jesse James’ nickname at Penn State was “Freak.”

And according to one scout, he is closing the gap on Minnesota’s Maxx Williams and Clive Walford in the pecking order at tight end.

James entered the draft following a junior season in which he caught 38 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns. He caught 63.3 percent of passes thrown his direction. In three seasons, he caught 78 passes for 1,005 yards, trailing only Andrew Quarless (87 catches; 2006 through 2009) and Ted Kwalick (1,343 yards; 1966 through 1968) among tight ends in school history. He caught at least one pass in his final 18 games.

At the Scouting Combine, James (6-7, 261) ran his 40-yard dash in a so-so 4.83 seconds but impressed with a 37.5 inch vertical and 26 reps on the bench. At Thursday’s pro day, he thought he improved to 4.65.

“I felt good about it,” he said. “All I did was run the 40. I think I ran a 4.65, somewhere in that range. It felt great. I didn't think I ran my best (at the Combine) so it felt great getting back.”

Inside linebacker Mike Hull and safety Adrian Amos are options in Day 3.

Hull was voted the Big Ten’s best linebacker as a senior, when his 140 tackles were almost double anyone else on the team. His size — he’s 5-foot-11 7/8 — might make him off-limits for the Packers, though they went below that once in taking D.J. Smith in the sixth round in 2011. Hull, whose father played for the Packers, ran in 4.68 with a superb 31 reps on the bench at the Combine. He improved just a bit — as low as 4.63 — but sustained a slight hamstring pull on his first attempt.

“I just say I am what I am,” Hull said about teams’ concerns about his size. “I'm going to work my ass off every single day, and I'm going to give you everything I have. That's all you can really do. Compete every single play, have great instincts, great motor, and do everything I can.”

Amos (6-1, 218) has great size and athleticism. After a 4.56 at the Combine, a source said Amos ran in 4.39. After skipping the bench at the Combine, he put up 21 reps. The versatile defender was a three-year starter – at cornerback as a sophomore, corner and safety as a junior and safety as a senior. He picked off three passes in 2014.

William & Mary

With plenty of big-name schools hosting pro days, it’s worth noting that the Packers dispatched senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith to see receiver Tre McBride, who is considered a solid Day 2 prospect.

McBride (6-0, 202) had a superb career with 55 receptions for 897 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore, 63 receptions for 801 yards and five touchdowns as a junior and 64 receptions for 809 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. As a junior, he averaged 27.5 yards on kickoff returns to be named the conference’s Special Teams Player of the Year. Downplay the competition if you will but he had a big week at the Shrine Game.

From an athletic standpoint, McBride didn’t have much to prove — not after a 4.41 in the 40 and a 38-inch vertical at the Combine.

Michael Reilly (6-3, 261), who projects to outside linebacker, ran as fast as 4.74 with a 31-inch vertical and 26 reps on the bench. As a senior, he was a first-team All-American and Conference Player of the Year with 11 sacks. He had 11.5 sacks as a junior. He’s a late-round/priority free agent possibility.

Missouri

Shane Ray — a potential top-10 pick as a 3-4 outside linebacker — was the obvious headliner. For the Packers, the top draws were Ray’s sidekick, Markus Golden, and offensive lineman Mitch Morse.

Morse is the perfect example of the kind of lineman the Packers prefer to draft. Morse broke into the starting lineup at center and right tackle as a sophomore before moving to right tackle as a junior. As a senior, Morse moved out to the left side. Green Bay almost always drafts collegiate left tackles and moves them around from there. He’s probably not capable of playing left tackle in the NFL but as a right tackle or guard, he’d provide great value in the fourth round. At the Combine, he showed his athleticism with a 5.14 in the 40, 31-inch vertical and 36 reps on the bench.

Golden is another fourth-round option as the Packers must fortify their outside linebacker corps. He had a big senior season with 10 sacks and 20 tackles for losses among his 78 stops, plus three forced fumbles and three recoveries. He had a 4.90 in the 40 at the Combine but improved to a sizzling 4.66, according to the Mizzou Web site.

Are the Packers committed enough to improving their special teams that they’d go outside the lines at running back? Marcus Murphy (5-9, 198) doesn’t look like Eddie Lacy and the team’s long line of big backs. However, as a senior, he rushed for 924 yards (5.2 average), caught 28 passes for 212 yards (7.6 average), averaged 29.6 yards per kickoff return (two touchdowns) and 10.4 yards per punt return (one touchdown) as a senior. He leaves Mizzou with seven career return touchdowns (four on punts, three on kickoffs) and 4,905 all-purpose yards (second to Jeremy Maclin). He ran in 4.51.

San Diego State

Terry Poole is another Packers-kind of lineman. He started at left tackle as a senior and right tackle as a junior. At 6-foot-5 and 307 pounds, he had a tremendous Combine with a 5.09 in the 40, a 31-inch vertical and 25 reps on the bench. With 33 1/4-inch arms, he’s got the length to have a shot at left tackle. Some scouts also see him as a prospect at guard. As a senior, according to head NFL scout Dave-Te’ Thomas, he had the key block on 12 touchdown runs and didn’t allow a sack.

He went through positional drills only.

Linebacker Derek Largent (6-4, 235) ran in 4.56 with a 36.5-inch vertical and 27 reps on the bench, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. He was all-conference as a sophomore and junior but injuries limited him to 32 tackles in nine games due to an appendectomy as a senior.

Stanford

The Cardinal might have as many as seven players selected, led by potential top-10 pick Andrus Peat.

Receiver Ty Montgomery entered the season looking like a potential first-round pick after a junior season in which he caught 61 passes for 958 yards (15.7 average) and 10 touchdowns, plus averaged 30.3 yards per kickoff return with two scores.

He took a step back in 2014, as he turned his 61 catches into just 604 yards (9.9 average) and three touchdowns. However, he averaged 19.8 yards per punt return with two touchdowns and 25.2 yards per kickoff return. The finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the nation’s most versatile player, would be just the ticket to help jump-start the Packers’ special teams.

At the Combine, Montgomery (6-0, 221) ran in 4.55 with a 40.5-inch vertical. With concerns that he was too muscular, he cut about 10 pounds for pro day and looked much better in drills, according to a source who said Montgomery was about one-tenth of a second faster than he was in Indy.

Stanford’s like one-stop shopping for building a defense. Cornerback Alex Carter (6-0, 196), defensive end Henry Anderson (6-6, 294), nose tackle David Parry (6-1, 308) and safety Jordan Richards (5-11, 211) were Combine invites while outside linebacker James Vaughters (6-2, 258) and inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley (6-0, 233) had plenty to prove to solidify their draft status. We are trying to get results from that six-man group, though the San Jose Mercury News had Carter at 4.42 (vs. 4.51 at the Combine) and Richards at 4.49 (much better than his 4.65).

Western Michigan

Donald Celiscar was a magnet to the football. As a senior, he recorded four interceptions and tied for the national lead with 21 passes defensed. He recorded 10 picks in his four seasons. At the Combine, Celiscar (5-11, 194) ran a sluggish 4.62. He was a bit faster on Thursday, with MLive.com reporting a 4.59.

Old Dominion

Somehow, Taylor Heinicke wasn’t invited to the Combine, despite comparisons to another former FCS star, Tony Romo. Heinicke (6-1, 211) ranks third in FCS history with 16,279 yards of total offense, fourth with 132 touchdown passes and sixth with 14,959 passing yards. Actually, with ODU taking a step up in competition, the Monarchs competed in FBS as a member of Conference USA last year. Heinicke threw for 3,476 yards and 30 touchdowns, including 400-yard games vs. Rice and Western Kentucky — two schools that played in bowl games.

On Wednesday, he had a strong workout that included a 40 time as fast as 4.55. According to another source, he was 62-of-68 passing, with three of the incompletions being dropped. According to the NFL’s scouting report, provided to Packer Report: “He gets the ball off instantly due to his compact delivery. Heinicke has good arm strength. He is best on the short and intermediate routes, but has enough of a big league arm to be equally efficient with the long ball.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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