Donovan Smith and Deion Barnes aren't the only Penn Staters to declare for the 2015 NFL Draft. Starting tight end Jesse James announced today that he will forgo his final year of eligibility to go pro. James announced the move in a statement released through PSU.
The 6-foot-7, 258 pound James had career highs in 2014 with 38 receptions and 396 receiving yards. He also hauled in three receiving touchdowns. Coming into the season, James was considered one of the favorites to win the John Mackey Award, which is given annually to the best tight end in America. He also made the award's midseason watch list.
For his career, James caught 78 balls for 1,005 yards and 11 touchdowns. As for his outlook in the Draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper does not have him listed on his big board of tight end recruits in the 2015 Draft, nor does CBS Sports. However, CBS Sports does has James listed as the No. 2 overall tight end prospect in the 2016 Draft. We'll let you know where he stands on both when they are updated.
Of course, losing James is huge for Penn State, but Nittany Lions fans don't necessarily need to panic. James' production as a receiving tight end will likely be replaced by Mike Gesicki, Kyle Carter and a returning Adam Breneman. James also struggled as a blocker, and it is expected that Breneman will be an upgrade in that regard.
Penn State also has some depth at the position, as Brent Wilkerson played from time to time this year, and three-star recruit Jonathan Holland is planning to play tight end in Happy Valley. James Franklin and his staff are also reportedly trying to lock up three-star tight end recruit Nick Bowers, who is currently committed to Pittsburgh.
All of us at Black Shoe Diaries would like to wish James the best of luck at the #NextLevel. Hopefully he turns into the next Gronk and he has an excellent career in the pros.