Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Weight: 261 pounds
40 time: 4.72
Jermaine Gresham is the type of talent at the tight end position that only comes around once every 5-10 years. Blessed with a tremendous combination of size, speed, and athleticism, Gresham is one of most impressive players physically in this year’s draft.
A one-year starter who played in 42 career games for the Sooners, Gresham leaves Oklahoma having caught 111 passes for 1,629 yards and 26 touchdowns during his career; his best statistical season was in 2008 when he caught 66 passes for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns. What put him on the national map was when he averaged 20.1-yards per catch in 2006, having caught eight passes for 161 yards and one touchdown.
The consensus top tight end in this year’s draft, Jermaine has a very tall frame with great bulk and strength which allows for him to provide his quarterback a large, reliable target down the middle of the field. Gresham’s natural athleticism is tremendous, as is his ability to make plays with the ball in his hands. He’s absolutely outstanding at stretching the seam in the middle of the field. A playmaker at tight end who is more agile than he is quick, Jermaine has good straight-line speed with the ability to consistently beat a defense deep. He’s too fast for a linebacker to cover him and he’s far too big for a defensive back to cover him, which causes major matchup problems for defenses.
Gresham has natural hands with the ability to snatch the ball out of the air, and he’s shown excellent ball skills and body control, having made a number of acrobatic catches during his career at Oklahoma. I also love the fact that Jermaine is such a great threat in the redzone with how big he is and with his solid vertical (35-inches), he’s a hard player to cover inside the 20-yard line. Gresham offers the strength needed to beat the jam at the line of scrimmage, and while he isn’t polished as a blocker and will need work there at the next level, he’s shown that he has the size and strength needed to drive the defender off the line.
Gresham doesn’t have great straight-line speed, however his long-strides help to make up for it; he plays faster on the field than his 4.72 40 time would suggest. He does an adequate job as a route runner, however he could stand to get better here if he wants to be the best player that he’s capable of being.
Durability is the biggest concern with Jermaine. In August before the 2009 season, he tore ligaments in his right knee, which resulted in him being forced to sit out the entire season. This forced scouts to go back to his film from his junior year to put a grade on him. He also tore the ACL in his left knee in high school; with a history of having had operations on both of his knees, there is some risk, especially long-term, when taking Gresham. In April of 2009 he was arrested for failing to appear in court to settle a speeding ticket; this won’t have an impact on his draft grade, however it will likely force teams to ask him why he never appeared. I project that Gresham will be drafted in the mid-to-late first round.
Coming into the 2009 season, I had Jermaine rated as a Top-10 pick, however because he didn’t play a down of football, his draft stock took a minor fall. Jermaine Gresham has the talent as well as the physical tools needed to develop into one of the best tight ends in the NFL. His injury history will worry some teams, however with how high his upside and potential are, he’s a player that would be worth the risk.
Notes: Jermaine was named second-team All-American and first-team All-Big 12 in 2008. He considered entering the 2009 NFL Draft, in which he also would have likely been the first tight end selected, however he decided to return to school for his senior year. After suffering his season-ending knee injury, he had the option to apply for a medical redshirt and return to school for the 2010 season, however he decided that he wanted to enter the draft. One of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school, Jermaine was rated as the No. 2 player in the state of Oklahoma as well as the No. 1 tight end and No. 34 overall player in the country by Rivals.com. As a senior in high school he caught 70 passes for 1,205 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Gresham is to this draft what Brandon Pettigrew was to last year’s, with hopefully a better ending; Pettigrew, in case you’ve forgotten, missed half of last season with a knee injury and has yet to be forgiven by Lions fans for not being Michael Oher, who was still on the board when Detroit selected him last year. He’s a combo tight end who can block and catch, presents match-up problems for opposing defenses, and provides a great security blanket and red zone target for his quarterback. And unlike Pettigrew, Gresham’s knee injury is (hopefully) behind him. He clearly wasn’t all the way recovered at the Combine, but he should be at full speed by the time games start to count.
Those looking at Gresham for their fantasy club need to be aware of the curse of the first round tight end (in the past 10 years only one first-round tight end has scored more than three touchdowns or topped 550 yards in their rookie campaign), because odds are he’s going off the board near the end of the first day. But that may also be a blessing for Gresham, because the two clubs eyeing tight ends there are the Bengals and Ravens; Baltimore certainly knows how to use the position (see Heap, Todd) and Cincy, while they haven’t had a quality tight end since the days of Rodney Holman, has the offense to make him productive. By all accounts the knee injury is mostly behind him, so if you can weather the potential Year One struggles Gresham projects to be a quality fantasy tight end for years to come.