2022 NFL Draft Profile: San Jose State TE Derrick Deese Jr.
The Spartans tight end has the tools to be a dynamic pass catcher in the NFL. How high is his ceiling in this year’s class?
A familiar surname for longtime NFL fans could be an enticing project.
It isn’t every day that a NFL Draft prospect from the Mountain West has family ties to the pro ranks, but that’s not all that San Jose State tight end Derrick Deese Jr. brings to the table.
After chipping in to help the Spartans claim a conference championship in 2020, Deese Jr. raised his game last season despite some broader struggles on offense and became one of just nine FBS tight ends to average at least 15 yards per catch. He’ll go into the draft without quite as much hype as some of his Mountain West peers, but there’s plenty of reason to believe he can make waves at the next level.
Measurables (taken from DraftScout.com)
Height – 6′ and 3 1/4″
Weight – 244 pounds
40-yard time – 4.93 seconds
10-yard split time – 1.65 seconds
Arm length – 33 5/8″
Hand size – 10 1/4″
Wingspan – 82″
Vertical jump – 31″
Broad jump – 10′ (or 120″)
Shuttle time – N/A
3-cone drill time – N/A
Bench press – 18 reps
If you’re wondering why the Deese surname sounds familiar, it’s because his father, Derrick Sr., was a long-time offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers. It may not surprise to learn, then, that the younger Deese is solid as a blocker. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, for instance, praises his ability to “[press] to full extension and [lock] out against odd-front linebackers” while Pro Football Focus gave him a 82.9 run-blocking grade that was the best among Mountain West tight ends and third in the FBS.
What’s most exciting, however, is what Deese Jr. offers as a pass-catcher. His arm length is comparable to that of recent NFL Combine participant Austin Allen while his wingspan compares favorably to Jelani Woods and his hand size would have been the second-largest among tight ends in Indianapolis; they would have ranked in the 75th, 89th, and 81st percentile, respectively. That, combined with his background as a wide receiver (he played the position in high school) and hands that are alternately described as “natural” and “soft“, gives him the range and movement ability to continue being a downfield threat in the right offense.
Not everyone is sold at present on Deese Jr.’s run-blocking abilities, pointing to power that is merely okay for the position but could improvement with development. That helps to explain why, for the moment, most draft analysts, like Blue Chip Scouting’s Devin Jackson and The Draft Network’s Drae Harris, foresee his immediate role as being the “F” tight end in a pro offense, useful but more complementary.
Another thing that may temper his draft stock is that, at San Jose State’s pro day, Deese was still dealing with an ankle injury that also affected him in the run-up to January’s Shrine Bowl.
Tight end is a remarkably deep position in this year’s draft, so while there’s always the risk that someone like Deese Jr. could get squeezed in a numbers game, it’s hard to imagine that a team won’t dream on his potential growth and take a flyer. He’ll likely have to wait until Day 3, but it’d be surprising if Derrick Deese Jr. wasn’t something like a seventh-round selection.