Prospect of the Day: Jaelen Strong

Take a look at Jaelen Strong's football career at Arizona State.

Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong
6'2", 217 lb.
Senior

Bio
Originally from Philadelphia, PA - scholarship offers from Eastern Mich., Villanova & VMI
Had all of 17 catches, 318 yards and four TD in his senior SEASON of high school
Had only 24 receptions for 385 yards and four TD in his junior season.
Chose to go JUCO route - Pierce College
Rated by ESPN as No. 15 overall JUCO prospect
Rated by ESPN as No. 5 JUCO receiver prospect
Rated by Rivals.com as No. 49 overall JUCO prospect
Caught 67 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 TD in his only year at Pierce in 2012 (26 in one year more than his two year high school total)

Honors
2nd Team All-America (2014)
Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist (2014)
1st Team All-Pac-12 (2014)
2nd Team All-Pac-12 (2013)
82 receptions in 2014 is 3rd all-time in Arizona State history

Combine Measurements
Arms: 32 ½"
Hand: 9"
40-yd dash: 4.44 secs
Vertical Jump: 42"
Broad Jump: 10'3"
*Short Shuttle: 4.19 secs *3-cone drill: 7.33 secs

**Recorded at his Pro Day on March 6, 2015

Overall
When Strong first caught my eye during the 2013 season, I didn't know a ton about his background. So, I went bio hunting and thought I had stumbled upon a misprint.

From Philadelphia?!?
Caught 41 passes in high school...IN TWO YEARS?!?
His only FCS scholarship offer was from Eastern Michigan?!?

Okay, someone in the Arizona State SID office screwed up and posted, I don't know, someone else's bio in Strong's place. Right? RIGHT?!?

Something didn't jive in my mind as I researched his background. The same guy I saw on my screen that caught 33 passes for 511 yards and two TD against four top 25 ranked teams in back-to-back-to-back-to-back weeks got all of ONE offer from an FCS school coming out of high school?

But, it was true and each time I watched him I couldn't help but think that it drove Strong to show all 125 FCS teams, minus EMU, what they missed.

He proceeded to catch 157 passes for 2,287 yards and 17 touchdowns over two seasons at Arizona State and declared for the 2015 NFL Draft.

I've seen a few draftniks/analysts say he's not worthy of a first round selection and many others say he should be a top 32 player in this draft. The news of the fractured bone in his wrist came out this week and that may complicate matters even further. But, the opinions are truly all over the place on Strong. Let's take a look at the full package.

Texans analyst and radio sideline reporter John Harris unveiled his top 100 prospects for the NFL Draft. (Photos courtesy of AP)

Quote
"Size, great ability and short-space quickness. [He} can run. With an accurate QB, it's very difficult...You've got to try to get two people in position to alter routes a little bit." - Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, talking about facing Strong in Sun Bowl - game in which Strong had seven catches for 103 yards.

"Bad Boy !!" - Snoop Dogg...yes, THAT Snoop Dogg.

What to like
--Snatches the ball out of the air when ball is away from his body
--Extremely competitive - in general but fights for all 50/50 balls
--Battled with Marcus Peters from Washington all night - Peters tried to get in his head and did at times, but Strong also scored a TD on him and gave it right back to the UW CB.
--Good speed and running ability after the catch
--Can be acrobatic with the ball in the air - see bowl game v. Duke
--Willing to do little things, especially mix it up run blocking down the field

What needs some work
--Not as sudden as some of the other bigger receivers exploding into routes.
--Has to use his strength more to keep from getting pushed off his route/spot.
--Doesn't sell his routes at all - straight linish - eases into breaks/cuts
--Too often I found instances where DBs were in perfect position to make play on ball - contest everything thrown his way.
--Doesn't use his hands to free himself v. press

Projection
In my estimation, there's a bunch more in Strong's game that needs work for him to be a big-time receiver at the next level. When watching other early round candidates, most, if not all, receivers were able to get wide open against college defensive backs consistently. Strong was rarely if ever completely wide open due to route running or because he used his strength to body a 185 lb. sophomore in college. That part must improve before he can truly be a No. 1 receiver in this league.

But, he's got tools in the toolbox and it's imperative that he learn to use them. HOF WR Michael Irvin learned early in his career to use the subtle push off to his advantage. He had immense strength for a receiver and found a way to capitalize on it to get open v. the best CB in the world. As such, if every pass Strong's way is going to be contested, he needs to be way more consistent snatching the ball with his hands on every pass. It appears he doesn't always trust his hands, unless it's a ball seemingly outside his catching radius. When he has to go up and get it, he'll go up and get his rebound, metaphorically speaking. I still think he's a top 32 prospect but I also see there's massive room to improve. He's really only scratching the surface with his physical gifts but a good WR teacher and solid, consistent QB play will aid in that development.

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