Drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2003, Rice University tight end James Casey spent three years pitching in the White Sox farm system. When the Sox released him in 2006, he decided to revive his football career. He enrolled at Rice University as a linebacker and quickly established himself on the football field as a multifaceted weapon at a number of different positions.
Casey, 24, earned a number of freshmen All-American honors in 2007 and ended his 2008 season with 1,329 yards on 111 receptions with 13 touchdowns. He was named First-Team All-Conference USA by the conference coaches and set a conference record for receptions in a single season. After only two seasons with the Owls, Casey opted to forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the 2009 NFL Draft. Casey ends his career at Rice with 1,914 yards on 157 catches and 17 touchdowns.
Casey's versatility and athletic ability is sure to draw the attention of a number of NFL teams in the draft.
- Great physical talent and athletic ability
- Excellent body control (uses his body to shield defenders in traffic)
- Great hands
- Great route-runner (makes crisp cuts)
- Toughness (makes plays in the middle of the field and bulls for yardage)
- Versatile (has experience at seven different positions)
- Intelligence and maturity (a triple major with a 3.8 GPA)
- Lacks traditional tight end size (6-foot-3, 246 pounds)
- One dimensional as a tight end (strictly a pass receiver)
- Virtually no experience as a blocker
- Raw (lacks experience at any one position)
- Average speed (4.69 40-yard dash at his March 26 Pro Day)
Expected draft placement
Due to his physical talent and versatility, along with the fact that the draft is short on quality tight ends this year, Casey projects as a solid second-round pick despite his lack of experience. Although he worked out at the 2009 NFL Scouting Combine as a tight end, Casey has experience at wide receiver, running back, fullback, safety, defensive end, punt returner and quarterback. Casey even showcased his throwing skills at the Rice Pro Day, where 28 NFL teams were represented. Scouts were impressed.
He projects at the NFL level strictly as an H-back or pass-receiving tight end in the vein of NFL tight ends like Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark and New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller. NFL teams that could be tempted by Casey at this point in the draft would be the Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. Teams that have additional picks in the second round are likely to be particularly interested, as are teams that seek to implement wildcat formations.
About John Kotch Jr.
John Kotch Jr. has been a KFFL contributing writer since 2007.
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