Much attention has been paid to the weaknesses throughout the Buffalo Bills’ defense during the 2015 NFL season, but heading into the 2016 offseason the team will need to make upgrades along the offense as well. Under Greg Roman, wide receiver Sammy Watkins has emerged as a game-changer at the wide receiver position, but injuries suffered to Percy Harvin, Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods have exposed the lack of depth and sure talent the Bills have on their depth chart. Today, we’ll take a look at UMass wide receiver Tajae Sharpe, an under-the-radar player in a deep draft class.
Tajae Sharpe is likely a name that many casual fans aren’t familiar with, as UMass isn’t exactly an NFL-factory, but the 6’2” 200-pound 21-year old wideout is a talented player. In four seasons (three as a starter) with the Minutemen, Sharpe recorded 277 receptions for 3,486 yards and 16 touchdowns.
There will definitely be questions regarding the level of competition Sharpe faced, but his eight catch, 83 yard outing against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish should put some of those concerns to rest.
Previous Prospect Breakdowns
Tajae Sharpe Physical Attributes
Tajae Sharpe has average size at 6’2” but is a lean 200-pounds. He’s got enough speed for the position, but he’s not a “burner” and certainly wont take the top off of a defense as he lacks a second-gear. However, Sharpe has got great footwork to get in and out of breaks and is a long-strider that allows him to get down the field. If he can put on a few pounds without sacrificing speed, it’d do wonders for his transition to the NFL game.
Tajae Sharpe’s Route Running
Tajae Sharpe was the focal point of UMass’ passing game and was asked to do a lot from a route running perspective. He lined up outside on both sides of the field, as well as in the slot and was used on Go’s, Comebacks, Posts, Corners, Screens, Slants and Hitch routes. In this day of spread offenses, the experience Tajae Sharpe has with various routes stands out against his peers.
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah had this to say about Sharpe during the recent East-West Shrine Game practices.
“UMass WR Tajae Sharpe has been outstanding this week. He’s big, smooth and athletic. He’s a very precise route runner. He was the toughest matchup for opposing cornerbacks.”
Here against Notre Dame, Tajae Sharpe is aligned to the left and is facing off-coverage. He gets 15 yards down-field and uses a quick head shake, making the cornerback bite inside, before quickly cutting to the sideline and making the catch.
Against Bowling Green, Tajae Sharpe sees off-coverage again and makes the grab on a comeback route, but what stands out is his aggressive mentality to fight for more yards after making the catch.
In the same game, Sharpe displays a nifty double-move on a deep route. Lined up at the top of the screen, Sharpe sells the post route before cutting back up field. The cornerback can’t flip his hips and transition quickly enough and Sharpe is able to make a contested catch in the endzone while drawing a pass interference flag.
Tajae Sharpe Ball Skills/ Hands
Tajae Sharpe’s hands measured in under 8” at the Shrine Game’s weigh in, which will be a red flag. However, his 277 receptions speak for themselves and you don’t see him drop many passes when watching him.
Sharpe is a natural hands-catcher—meaning he’ll extend his arms away from his body to pluck the ball out of the air—rather than allow the ball to get into his body.
This ability is shown in the following game against Penn State. Tajae Sharpe runs an intermediate post route over the middle of the field. Despite being surrounded by four Nittany Lions ready to lay the lumber on him, Tajae Sharpe displays a fearlessness you love to see in a wideout, leaping from the ground, extending his arms to make a ridiculous catch and taking it 80-yards to the house.
That fearlessness when going over the middle is also shown in the following clip against Bowling Green, as Sharpe makes a diving catch between two defenders.
Tajae Sharpe does an incredible job of tracking the ball in the air on go routes, routinely showing the ability to make over-the-shoulder catches in stride.
Sharpe also knows how to position his body to box out defenders and make contested catches, as you can see in the following play. Sharpe runs a deep post route and gains inside leverage on the defensive back. He makes the catch and draws a pass interference penalty.
Tajae Sharpe’s Potential Fit with the Buffalo Bills
Tajae Sharpe isn’t a flashy wideout by any mean. He doesn’t have elite size or speed, but he’s a crafty player that runs great routes, has strong hands and understands how to use his body as an advantage against cornerbacks. Sharpe probably won’t ever be a “No. 1” receiver for an NFL team, but he has everything you look for in a complementary wideout that demands attention from opposing defenses.
Sharpe didn’t see a lot of quality competition throughout his collegiate career, so he’ll need to work on the finer aspects of the game, such as getting off press coverage and anticipating voids in zone defenses. However, he’s a fine prospect that should be a contributor to an offense within two years as a late day two or early day three pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.