- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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One question teams won’t have about tight end Jesse James after the NFL scouting combine is whether he lacks confidence.
The NFL’s draft advisory board all but told James to return to Penn State for another season, and he declared for the draft anyway.
James is an intriguing prospect at tight end because of his size, and the 6-foot-7, 262-pounder is in Indianapolis this week trying to convince teams that he did not make a mistake by coming out early for the draft.
"I feel like I’m prepared and very confident in my ability to play at the next level," James said at the combine. "I feel I’m ready. The coaches that I’ve had in the past in my three years at Penn State prepared me for this, and I’m ready to go."
James said he has interviewed with the Pittsburgh Steelers at the combine, and they will take a long look at him for a couple of reasons.
General manager Kevin Colbert said recently that tight end is a "concern" and the Steelers need to add young depth at the position. Also, James grew up right outside of Pittsburgh, and the Steelers always do extra homework on prospects such as James so they don’t miss out on local players.
James will be an interesting evaluation.
He has tantalizing size and set Penn State’s record for most career touchdown receptions (11) by a tight end despite playing only three seasons for the Nittany Lions.
But James did not put up big numbers last season when he caught 38 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns, and there are questions about him as a blocker in spite of his size.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has James pegged as a mid- to late-round pick even in a draft that is not especially strong at tight end.
"Maybe I can be a little more aggressive blocker, just finishing a little bit more and touching up on my technique," James said.
The NFL draft advisory board told James he would be drafted after the second round -- it doesn’t give prospects specific rounds they could be chosen after the first two rounds -- so he is betting on himself as he tries to sell himself to NFL teams.
James did spend his first two seasons at Penn State with Bill O’Brien, who coached Rob Gronkowski in New England before becoming the Nittany Lions’ head coach. And as a lifelong Steelers fan, James has studied Heath Miller.
"Actually looking at how he does things, he’s a balanced player," James said of Miller. "He works his butt off every play."