Draft Profile: Jaelen Strong (WR)
Strong Hands, Strong Frame, and Strong Highlights: Jaelen Strong’s Name Couldn’t Fit Him Any Better
WR-Arizona State University
40-Yard Dash: 4.44 sec
Vertical Jump: 42”
Broad Jump: 10’3”
2013: Second Team All-Pac 12
2014: First Team All-Pac 12
2014: Finalist for Biletnikoff Award
2014: 82 receptions, 1165 yards, 10 TDs
With Amari Cooper, Kevin White, and Devante Parker already cemented as high-first round picks, it is hard to imagine there being room for another elite wide receiver in this year’s class. Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong is not as far behind the three big names at the position as most would think. The pass catcher was a highlight machine in college, and will look to bring his electrifying style of play to the NFL in 2015. If Miami is dead-set on selecting a receiver in the first round, Jaelen Strong’s standout career with the Sun Devils could warrant him strong consideration for the 14th overall pick.
Jaelen Strong has a very natural stride, and while he might not have breakaway speed, he is able to use his strength and physicality to make contested catches. Strong played basketball in high school, and has been able to translate his ability from the court onto the football field. In the NFL, one of the most valuable skills a receiver can have is being able to box out defenders using size or strength. Strong may only be 217lbs, but his playing style looks like that of a receiver weighing in at 240. He has natural ability when coming back to the football, and displays great instincts locating the ball when it is thrown deep.
Jaelen Strong’s hands are one of the things that pop out on his tape. He has powerful enough hands to make one handed catches look easy, and to rip the ball away from defenders. Jump ball situations also showcase his natural catching ability, as well as his instincts high-pointing the football. Without his powerful hands and jump ball skills, Strong would not have spent as much time as he did on ESPN Top 10 plays. Jaelen Strong will be able to use his strength, focus, and instincts to create plays when facing even seasoned NFL cornerbacks.
Sometimes, natural pass catchers who used strength to physically dominate college defensive backs have trouble translating to the NFL. Many are worried this will be the case with Strong, as he will not have the height and pure physical ability to produce at the next level. If he cannot develop his routes (which are mediocre) he will struggle mightily early on in his pro career. If his routes can improve quickly, it will be a huge aide to Strong’s success in the NFL.
Jaelen Strong also lacks the speed needed to separate from defensive backs at the next level. This alone is a reason for Strong to spend the vast majority of his offseason with route running, as more creative patterns will help him gain separation. Studying Kelvin Benjamin’s rookie year would help Strong, as Benjamin also lacked breakaway speed to gain separation (Benjamin is much larger, but also falls slightly behind Strong in terms of speed). If Jaelen Strong works on refining his routes, he will be able to mask his lack of breakaway speed much more effectively in the NFL.
While Strong is a formidable prospect in his own right, there is no question that he should be the Dolphins’ backup option at receiver if Devante Parker has already been selected. While Strong sometimes struggles with routes and gaining separation from defenders, he has outstanding hands and a unique ability to make plays on jump balls. When he is given an NFL route tree (and has had time to master those new patterns), he will be able to use his physicality and powerful hands to make big plays on Sundays.
Overall, it would not make much sense for Miami to select Strong if Devante Parker is still on the board, but if the team has locked in on targeting a receiver in the first round, he is an exciting player who would bring much needed size to the Dolphins’ receiving core. In terms of filling the team’s need for a big-bodied receiver, Jaelen Strong would make sense for the Miami Dolphins with the 14th pick.