Jace Sternberger was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the third round of the 2019 draft. His 2019 season, however, was not what he nor the organization hoped for. An injury early in the season kept him from recording a reception during the entire regular season. In the NFC Championship, though, he recorded three receptions for 15 yards and his first NFL touchdown.
The departure of Jimmy Graham opens up the starting tight end spot and it’s Sternberger’s for the taking. Here, we are going to analyze his potential and conclude what he needs to do in order to take the next step.
Jace Sternberger: College Career
After barely seeing the field with Kansas in 2015 and 2016, Sternberger transferred to Texas A&M, foregoing his 2017 season. In 2018, Sternberger had 48 receptions for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. He could have played one more year, but chose to enter the NFL Draft. The Packers selected Sternberger in the third round with the 75th overall pick. Given the shallow tight end pool in 2020, experts believe Sternberger would have been the best tight end in this year’s draft had he stayed in college. This means that the Packers have one of the best young tight ends in football.
What Sternberger Needs to Do
The tight end position has been a position of weakness for the Packers in recent years. Aside from a decent half season from Jared Cook in 2016, the Packers have not had a good receiving tight end since Jermichael Finley.
In order to be successful in 2020, Sternberger needs to do what Jimmy Graham could not: get open and catch the ball. Jimmy Graham was targeted 60 times last season, but only recorded 38 receptions. In 2018, Graham had 55 receptions on 89 targets.
The fact of the matter is that in LaFleur’s run-first offense, Sternberger will not get as many targets as George Kittle or Travis Kelce. However, he can open up the run game and the down-field passing game if he can be a reliable target in the middle of the field. He must make the most of the opportunities he gets. Sternberger must show he is better at breaking tackles than previous Packers’ tight ends in order to make a lasting influence on the team. If he can do that, there is no limit to his potential.
Jace Sternberger: Fantasy Forecast
Aaron Rodgers is known for spreading out the ball. Seven players had at least 45 targets last season. One of them was Graham, and Packers’ fans can assume that Sternberger will be the recipient of those targets in 2020. Davante Adams was the most targeted receiver with 127 in 2019. If Sternberger proves a reliable target, he may get more throws his way than Graham did last season. However, LaFleur’s offense is a run-first scheme, so expecting numbers comparable to the league’s top tight ends is unrealistic.
In George Kittle’s rookie season, he had 43 receptions on 63 targets. He turned that into 515 yards receiving and two touchdowns. In his second year, Kittle exploded for 88 receptions on 136 targets. He had 1,377 yards receiving and five touchdowns. Similarly, Travis Kelce took a few years to become the dominating force he is today. After missing his rookie season with injury, Kelce recorded back to back seasons of 800+ yards. It was not until 2016, his fourth year, that he broke the 1,000 yard mark in a season.
The key for both of these tight ends’ numbers is that they are targeted over 100 times per season. It is difficult to see Sternberger getting that kind of role in LaFleur’s offense. After all, George Kittle had more receptions than Jimmy Graham had targets in 2019.
Unsolicited Fantasy Advice
If a fantasy GM is looking for a tight end to score them big points, it does not appear that Sternberger would be a wise pick. He is better suited as a backup tight end on a fantasy roster. Of course, this is all speculation. If Sternberger establishes himself as a reliable target, Rodgers will look his way often, and fantasy points will come. It is better, though, to play it safe from a fantasy standpoint and try to draft a tight end from a pass-first team.
Follow me on Twitter at @MrAdams88 and follow us @OTHWisconsin for more great content. Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion. To read more of our articles and keep up to date on the latest in Wisconsin sports, click here!