Penn State continues to make its presence felt at the 2015 NFL Draft, with two more players coming off the board Saturday afternoon.
Free safety Adrian Amos was selected No. 142 overall by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round, with tight end Jesse James going to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 160.
Amos, a three-year starter for Penn State, began his college career as a cornerback before making the transition to safety during his junior year.
In his first year at his new position, Amos attained honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors, ranking seventh on the team with 50 tackles (32 solo), 4.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks for minus-21 yards, as well as five pass breakups and one interception. As a full-time safety in 2014, Amos notched 42 tackles (30 solo), a team-high three interceptions, and seven pass breakups as the veteran leader of Penn State’s young secondary.
The Baltimore, Md. native, who chronicled his path to the draft for the Baltimore Sun, impressed scouts at Penn State’s Pro Day with a blazing unofficial 4.38 40-yard dash time, and followed up with a strong 21-rep performance on the bench press.
At 6-foot, 218 pounds, Amos fits the ideal model of a safety in the NFL, capable of making athletic plays in pass coverage with terrific range while providing run support. Amos allowed just 3.9 yards per target in 2014, and is versatile enough to cover slot receivers in nickel packages thanks to his experience at corner.
Most scouts projected Amos to fall within the third or fourth rounds, so No. 142 overall is slightly later than expected for Amos’s skill set. The Bears are a safety-needy team, and while Amos will have to prove himself as a better defender against the run, he brings excellent zone coverage ability to the secondary of the Bear’s defense. With Charles Tillman gone, Amos should compete immediately for playing time, and should benefit from the mentorship of Antrel Rolle.
Penn State’s third player off the board is tight end Jesse James, a 6-foot-7, 254-pound target who announced his decision to enter the NFL Draft this offseason, choosing to forgo his senior season at Penn State. His 78 catches for 1,005 yards and 11 touchdowns after three seasons as a Nittany Lion solidified the Glassport, Pa., native as a legitimate offensive threat, receiving attention from NFL scouts for his massive frame and pass-catching ability.
Though James never had more than 40 catches or 400 yards receiving in a single season, the true junior always had a knack for finding the endzone. As a true freshman, five of his 15 receptions went for touchdowns, and his 3 touchdown catches this year were a team-best. He’s been a consistent redzone threat to boot, with seven of his 11 career touchdown catches coming inside the 20-yard line.
Mel Kiper ranked James as the seventh-best tight end prospect following his announcement, the only Penn State player to make any of Kiper’s top 10 lists before Donovan Smith vaulted up the draft boards following a strong combine and Senior Bowl performance. Smith was taken No. 34 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round.
The knock on James that most likely kept him out of the first few rounds is his inability to block downfield. Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com pointed toward his 27 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press during the Uplifting Athletes charity event as a sign of the junior’s strength, but said he’s not as powerful a blocker as his size and strength suggest. However, Rang said James is “broad and competitive enough to seal off defenders,” even if he doesn’t get much push past the line of scrimmage.
James figures to play a key role on the Steeler’s offense next season, providing a big target for Ben Roethlisberger to throw to, especially in the red zone. He joins fellow tight end Heath Miller on the Steelers’ roster, and will compete for playing time once training camp begins this summer. Miller is aging, and certainly won’t be around for that many more years; James could provide a strong second option. James looks to join fellow Nittany Lion and current Green Bay Packer Andrew Quarless as prominent Penn State tight ends currently in the NFL.
Penn State Football: Donovan Smith Drafted 34th Overall By Tampa Bay
Judge In Spanier Defamation Suit Against Freeh Recuses Himself
Police Officer Under Investigation for Stealing Evidence
Penn State Announces Economic Development Partnership
Penn State Football: No Future In Sight For Syracuse Series
Penn State Football: Day Two Of NFL Draft Set To Bring More Action For Nittany Lions
Defense Attorneys Attack DA's Lawsuit Against County
NCAA Wants Clemens Removed From Paterno Lawsuit