Breakdown: Texans Select Jaelen Strong

Everything you need to know about the Houston Texans’ third-round selection of wide receiver Jaelen Strong out of Arizona State from Scout's college and pro football experts.

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Jaelen Strong
Arizona State / 6'2 / 217 lbs
  • WR
  • [3] #6

Analysis

Strong had a nice two year career for the Sun Devils. He caught 157 passes in 26 games for 2,287 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. He has good size (6-3/215) and ran better than what most thought (4.51 forty) at combine. Strong is perhaps at his best in the air as he as very good body control, concentration and hand-eye coordination. It also helps that he has a 42-inch vertical jump. More times than not he catches the ball cleanly, showing soft hands. He runs well but is more of a possession/physical wide receiver that should be adept at moving the chains and being a dangerous red-zone threat.

Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation

Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:

Like West Virginia’s Kevin White, Jaelen Strong is a big, physically imposing receiver who excelled in 2014, despite injury issues that saw two quarterbacks split time for the Sun Devils. He overcame ankle woes in 2013 to pull down 71 balls for 1.122 yards in 2013. This season, he tallied 1,062 yards behind 75 grabs that included ten touchdowns, but did miss one game (Washington State) after suffering a concussion vs. Oregon State. A non-qualifier out of high school, he spent two seasons at Pierce Junior College before joining the ASU program last season.

Strong shows very good foot speed and quickness, along with an explosive up field burst, drawing comparisons to Atlanta’s Roddy White. He does a very good job of closing the cushion and creating space up field. On short routes, he is better vs. the cushion than the press due to his stance, but can power through effectively. He can find the open areas in the zone and sit down. While he has good foot speed, he seems to be more comfortable working as a possession receiver.

Still, for a player of his size and power, seeing that defenders have batted 21 targeted passes to him last year was alarming. His success rate of 56.55% on targeted throws (caught 82 of 145 passes, with two drops and 21 break-ups) was ninth in our recent research on the top ten receivers available in the 2015 draft. The only receiver with worse numbers was a player known for his “yips,” Sammie Coates of Auburn (43.04%; 34 catches of 79 targets, with five drops and 13 deflections).

Another weak area of his game is his inconsistency in finding the short-to-intermediate areas on the field, where he shows that he can be undisciplined. Strong does a nice job of tracking the ball and has very good body control adjusting to throws outside the cylinder, maintaining his focus in traffic to win lots of jump ball battles with defenders draped all over him. He just needs to be sharper working underneath, where his footwork can get a bit sloppy coming out of his breaks.

Being selected in the first round is what Strong hopes, but if he does accomplish that feat, he will become the first Sun Devil since Aaron Cox to be chosen in round one of a draft. Cox was taken by the Los Angeles Rams with the 20th overall selection. The last Arizona State player to hear his name called in the opening round of the draft came in 2003, when linebacker/rush end Terrell Suggs joined Baltimore after the Ravens used the tenth overall choice for the All-American pass rusher.

Strong uses his size to force the defender out of his backpedal and into a bail technique. He is best served when used on crossers, stops, outs, quick slants and control routes. He is not as polished on deep patterns, where he is more apt to round his cuts, as he takes more of a soft angle approach rather than 90-degree angle cuts. Use him on posts, bubble screens and hitches, if you want to get the best production out of him.

The Sun Devil has good hip flexibility, but can be inconsistent changing direction. When he keeps his pads down and bends at the knees to shift his weight, he is much more effective beating the defender coming out of his breaks. He has above average body control and once he gains momentum, he has the functional hip swerve and head fakes to set up and con the defender. He appears fluid running with the ball after the catch.

Strong is very good at adjusting and going over the top of a defender to get to the ball at its high point. He has the body control to make the difficult off-target circus catch and does a nice job of adjusting to the balls coming over his outside shoulder. He is savvy coming back for the low throws and flashes good flexibility to adjust on the move. He will extend and catch away from the body’s framework.

The junior certainly has exceptional leaping ability (42-inch vertical jump) to get to the ball at the high point. He is very effective extending for the ball down the sidelines and shows a fearless nature going for the pigskin in tight quarters. He has the leg strength to break arm tackles and the hip snap to shift gears and pull away from second level defenders.

Strong shows very good hand punch to beat the press, but he also needs to use rip and swim moves more often. He has the reach to snatch the ball outside his frame and tracks the ball well over his shoulder. Even when he body catches, it is not as a crutch.

The ASU product has very good hands and can make all the catches. When he pulls the ball close to the body, he will drop the easy tosses, but when he maintains concentration, he has the reach and pluck skills to get to the difficult tosses, especially those that are along the sidelines, doing a nice job with his balance to keep his feet in bounds.

Strong demonstrated at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine what his films showed through-out the 2014 season - he possesses good top-end speed (4.42 in the 40-yard dash) for a big player, does a nice job of tracking balls down field and is a threat to make the big play in the vertical passing game. He has good athletic ability, is smooth getting in and out of cuts and is capable of creating separation against man coverage.

He has to remain consistent in this area, but Strong catches the ball with hands away from his frame and can catch the ball in-stride. He shows great sideline awareness and body control when leaping and is physical enough to know how to box-out defenders and gain body position.

Strong runs with good power and is very productive picking up extra “real estate” after the catch, because he knows how to “get small” (shifty and elusive). He has that ability to easily change gears when tracking the deep ball and possesses excellent over-the-shoulder concentration.

Jaelen Strong Scouting Combine measurables


6-2/217 (4.44 forty)
32 1/2-inch arm length
9-inch hands
42-inch vertical jump
123-inch broad jump

Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.

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