|Height: 6-3 | Weight: 246 | College: Rice|
Casey is a truly remarkable athlete and person, having overcome several obstacles in his personal life and athletic career to emerge as one of the finest prospects in the 2009 NFL Draft. His focus, determination and success on the field have created a story that a Hollywood producer would love to turn into a movie.
Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, tragedy struck the Casey family when James was a sophomore at Azle High School. A fire caused by an electrical heater malfunction in the trailer his family lived in, taking the life of his mother, Susan. "It was a real rough moment in my life, Casey recalled. "I think she'd be very proud of how I've handled myself and where I'm at right now." Where that is might be a first-day call from an NFL team in late April.
The family tragedy forced the young Casey to grow up in a hurry. "It was a big turning point in my life," he said. "It made me be very driven, very motivated with a very, very good work ethic. I realized my mom would have wanted me to pick myself up and to succeed."
Casey was a standout in football and baseball at Azle High, where he earned All- District honors as a quarterback during his junior campaign in 2001. He missed most of his senior football season with injury problems, leaving baseball as his only option for his immediate future.
Casey earned All-State and Academic All-State honors in baseball and was named District 6-4A Most Valuable Player as a senior. He threw a no-hitter in first varsity game and major league scouts flocked to see him perform. He was also a member of the National Honor Society at Azele High.
Casey excelled academically, and while he loved the game of football, he received more attention for his performance on the baseball diamond during his prep days. He was selected in the seventh round of the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft by the Chicago White Sox.
Baseball America rated him as possessing the best fastball in the Sox minor league organization. The right-handed pitcher spent three years in the White Sox farm system before he was released in 2006. He played for a few independent teams in Fort Worth and Laredo before deciding to retire from baseball.
That became another turning point for him. Casey enrolled at Rice University after one of his high school teammates, Dustin Hufsey, who was on the Rice team, forwarded his information on to the coaching staff. He was awarded a scholarship as a linebacker, but he eventually was shifted to defensive end.
In the 2007 Southern Mississippi game, he played seven different positions, catching two passes while scoring once on 12 carries for 38 yards. He also posted three tackles, assisted on a sack, made another stop behind the line of scrimmage and recovered a fumble.
The coaches decided his athleticism would be better served on the offensive side of the ball. He was named a Freshman All American as a tight end by the Football Writers Association, The Sporting News and Rivals.com. The consensus Conference USA All- Freshman pick would also perform as a flanker, inside slot receiver, linebacker, H-back and quarterback in addition to seeing some action as a punt returner that campaign.
All told, Casey started just four of the 12 2007 games he appeared in, but ranked second on the team with 46 receptions for 585 yards (12.7 avg) and four touchdowns. He scored five more times while gaining 144 yards on 45 carries (3.2 avg) and completed two of seven passes for 32 yards and an interception. He scored 54 points and totaled 711 all-purpose yards.
Casey followed with a banner 2008 campaign. Used mostly at the "Y" receiver position, he established school single-season records with 111 receptions for 1,329 yards (12.0 avg) and 12 touchdowns, earning All-American and All-Conference USA accolades. He became just the second player in school history to score more than 100 points (116) in a season, as he also had six touchdowns and 248 yards on 57 carries (4.4 avg), connected on two of five throws for 5 yards and a pair of scores and returned 14 punts for 112 yards (8.0 avg). His 1,682 all-purpose yards ranked seventh in the league and rank fifth in Rice annals.
After the season, Casey and his wife, Kylie, decided he should forgo his final two years of eligibility and he applied for the 2009 NFL Draft. In just two years at Rice, he received Academic All-American honors, compiling a 3.84-grade point average while holding a triple major in Economics, Managerial Studies and Sports Management.
Positives: Unique all-around athlete capable of contributing in various ways at the next level. Instinctive football player who simply makes plays. Good playing speed, though his actual 40 time is questionable. Good initial burst off the line of scrimmage. Good agility to make defenders miss in the open field. Good toughness. Willing to absorb the hit to gain positive yardage, but more often dishes out punishment. Natural hands for the reception. Good hand-eye coordination. Secure ball-carrier. Mature athlete with professional experience due to his baseball career.
Negatives: Lacks a true role and will be drafted based on athletic potential. Though many scouts view him as a potential tight end prospect, Casey has limited experience in this role and virtually none as a traditional blocker out of the three-point stance. Only two years of D-I experience and operated in a spread system perfectly tailored to his unique skill set. Due to his time playing baseball is older than most rookies (will turn 25 in September).
Compares To: WES WELKER, New England meets DALLAS CLARK, Indianapolis -- It is very hard to find a comparison for Casey. His ability to play in a variety of blue collar roles brings back memories of what Welker did at Texas Tech and does for the Pats. Casey's pass catching ability is on par with Clark's, but he does not have the size and blocking skills to be considered a traditional tight end. Using him as an H-Back or slot receiver is his best option, as he needs to be in motion to be productive, evident by his breakout performance in 2008. Still, he is a neophyte to football, with just two years of college experience and was away from the game for three years. His birth certificate has a lower date (8/22/84) on it than most prospects in this draft.
GENERAL REPORT: GRADE: 7.30
Body Structure: Casey has an adequate-sized frame for the classic tight end position, but he is a well-built athlete with an excellent power base, especially if utilized as a "Y" receiver, H-back or motion receiver coming out of the slot. He has a solid build, cut, with above average overall muscle tone and a frame that can carry additional bulk. He has thick legs and arms, broad chest and thick thighs and calves, along with a tight waist and loose hips.
Athletic Ability: Casey is a well-built athlete with good quickness, agility, balance and body control for the H-back and slot receiver position, but lacks the size you look for in a traditional tight end. He is an athletic mover who might not have explosive speed, but does a good job of gobbling up the cushion with his long stride. He has above average change of direction agility, quickness and balance on the move. He is surprisingly strong for his size and could have made an efficient linebacker, as his frame is built more along those lines. He shows good arm strength for the option pass and is a dangerous runner out of the backfield. He shows good striking form and balance as a second-level blocker and superb hand/eye coordination along with natural hands, timing and leaping ability to high point the ball and catch it away from his frame. GRADE: 7.3
Football Sense: He has played a variety of roles (played seven vs. Southern Miss in 2007) and has great vision and a feel for what the defense offers. He is an excellent student, handling a three-major course schedule, football and other affairs, yet still attained a 3.84 grade point average. He picks things up quickly and has the ability to handle any task the coaches ask from him. He is simply a hard worker who is smart, learns football well and is a good student. Has a good feel for the sidelines, but does not block consistently downfield. He reacts well to coverage and is one of the smarter players in this draft. GRADE: 7.7
Character: Casey is a well-liked, mature player with a team-first attitude, but will not hesitate to ask for the ball in crucial situations. He displays excellent character, and was quickly embraced by the coaching staff and teammates when he arrived on campus. He is very accountable and responsible, with no skeletons in his closet. GRADE: 7.5
Competitiveness: Casey plays with good field smarts and aggression. He will compete as a blocker at the line of scrimmage or in the open field (needs technique refinement) and likes the idea that the coaches will play him in a variety of roles every game, feeling that it not only keeps defenses honest, but has greatly improved his learning curve. He plays with good moxie and even though he is still a work in progress as a blocker, he attacks that role with a good attitude and urgency. He is very tough and competitive both before and after the catch and will not hesitate to go vertical for the ball with defenders closing on the play. GRADE: 7.0
Work Habits: Casey is a coach's dream, as he is a very hard worker who seems to really grasp the concept for being responsible and dedicated. He has worked hard to make himself a football player in such a short time. He might be considered a bit of an over-achiever, but it is in his nature to do whatever it takes to help the team. GRADE: 7.0
ATHLETIC REPORT: GRADE: 6.49
Release: Casey lacks explosion off the snap, but he shows a quick thrust off the line to challenge defensive backs and keep pressure on the secondary. He is very smooth and efficient in his release, using his long arms and strength to quickly defeat the press, driving hard with his legs to beat the jam. Casey plays at a good pad level, showing effective quickness driving off the line. He has enough strength to defeat the press and will move quickly once he gains acceleration. The thing you see on film is the proper pad level he uses, as it gets him off the line cleanly and helps him to avoid under-coverage on the route stem. GRADE: 6.8
Acceleration: Casey won't suddenly develop a second gear, but on deep routes he can glide and adjust to catch the throws without breaking stride. He is a nice short-area target, especially since he now understands leverage and how to sit in the zone. He is sure-handed and not distracted by traffic pressure. He has the stride needed to get to the ball, showing a smooth burst and crisp body adjustments. Despite a lack of top-end speed, he has the ability to get deep. He is certainly not a burner, but accelerates well. He is not as quick in shorter routes as the smaller receivers, but has the in-stride and adjustment agility to get to the ball on long routes. GRADE: 6.4
Quickness: Rather than explode into his routes, Casey is more of a strong runner, but sometimes takes time to get back to speed after the catch. He is more of a soft angle cutter in the short area, but has adequate quickness and control in his movements. He takes strong strides rather than short, quick steps. He manages to gain advantage to hook the nine-tech and moves his feet well to sustain working down the line. GRADE: 6.1
Route Running: Casey is more of a savvy route runner. He is not going to simply fly past and get behind a defender, but he builds his acceleration steadily and shows good wiggle and moves to make the secondary types bite more often than they should on play-action. His patterns are precise with no drift vs. man coverage, with good stem, stick and leverage ability. He does a nice job of using swim moves and a stutter-step to shake off the safeties when working in the short area. He is a polished route runner and his short routes are good enough to get the job done. With increased experience, he could do a nice job of running tight upfield routes. GRADE: 7.0
Separation Ability: Casey is more elusive than his timed speed indicates and when he can't set up a defender with his moves to separate, he has the raw strength to simply power over them. He has the upper body strength and hand usage to prevent defenders from getting into his body. He is not going to explode coming out of his breaks, but with his loose hips and change of direction agility, he will make the initial tackler miss more often than not. He is creative with his moves and shows that strong stride to run past second-level defenders. He has the hip wiggle and strength to drive through arm tackles, finding the crease with his stop-and-go action to take the ball to the house. He sells his moves well to gain separation and shows a decent burst into and out of breaks. He also has enough quickness to come back to the ball. GRADE: 6.4
Ball Concentration: Casey has eyes only for the ball when he locates it in flight, as he will sacrifice his body to get to the ball. He runs crisp short-to-intermediate routes and is rarely ever distracted by defenders closing on him. He has outstanding field vision, doing a great job of finding the sideline and adjusting his body to keep his feet in bounds. He is able to run, adjust and jump for the ball in a crowd (especially effective adjusting to the ball over his shoulder, but also excels at the high, low and behind tosses). He shows good focus and concentration on all balls and doesn't drop them very often. GRADE: 6.9
Ball Adjustment: Casey is athletic enough to go up for the ball and catch it at its high point. He does a nice job extending to catch outside his frame and is not surprised by what the defender tries to do to him when he lays out for the pass. His focus is so good vs. the ball in the air, that he makes the one-hand catch look routine. He can uncover and position his big body and use his long arms to make the plays on underneath routes. He knows how to set up the safeties with his head fakes and change of direction agility on short routes. He looks natural adjusting to ball with very good flexibility and body control, especially when going up to get to the pigskin at its highest point. GRADE: 7.2
Leaping Ability: Casey can high-point with the best of them at this position and even though he lacks the ideal height you look for in a traditional tight end, he will win most jump ball battles due to his vertical skills. GRADE: 6.6
Hands: Casey extends his arms well to catch the ball with his hands out in front. He is a solid natural hands catcher who uses his height advantage and long arms vs. corners to fight for the ball in traffic. His hands appear soft and sure, easily plucking for the ball, even in a crowd. GRADE: 6.5
Run After the Catch: Casey is a power-oriented runner who has great success moving the ball upfield after the catch. Whether it is using his fluid change of direction agility to elude or his leg drive to break arm tackles, do not get fooled by his size - he will hurt you in more ways than one if you do. He knows where the end zone is and while he will never be a burner, he runs hard with the ball in his hands. He gets good depth through his routes and quickly recognizes the coverage working in the zone. He has the hip-sink agility that allows him to get good quickness coming out of his breaks. As a "Y" receiver, his size posed match-up problems for the smaller defensive backs and he has the ability to stop and start immediately in attempts to elude. He is best when he is on the move, as he shows strength to break tackles. GRADE: 6.7
Blocking Ability: Casey has good power and shows urgency, but is a bit inconsistent here. Still, he is a work in progress, but with his work ethic he just needs patient coaching to teach him proper blocking techniques (in the spread, he was not asked to block much at Rice). He gets to the second level with good angle concept to either cut or wall off. When blocking on the down side, he just needs to realize it is better to out-power rather than try to finesse. His problems occur at the line of scrimmage, where he fails to sink his weight, which lets defenders walk him back into the pocket at times. He can adjust to moving targets, but learning in-line blocking concepts will take time. GRADE: 4.8
Compares To: WES WELKER, New England meets DALLAS CLARK, Indianapolis -- It is very hard to find a comparison for Casey. His ability to play in a variety of blue collar roles brings back memories of what Welker did at Texas Tech and does for the Pats. Casey's pass catching ability is on par with Clark's, but he does not have the size and blocking skills to be considered a traditional tight end. Using him as an H-Back or slot receiver is his best option, as he needs to be in motion to be productive, evident by his breakout performance in 2008. Still, he is a neophyte to football, with just two years of college experience and was away from the game for three years. His birth certificate has a lower date on it than most prospects in this draft.
OVERALL GRADE: 6.63
--Report by Dave-Te' Thomas
Casey started 17 of 25 games at Rice, catching 157 passes for 1,914 yards (12.19 avg) and 17 touchdowns His 157 receptions rank third in school history behind teammate Jarett Dillard (292, 2005-08) and Eric Henley (186, 1988-91) His 1,914 receiving yards placed fourth in Rice annals, topped by Dillard's 4,138 yards, Henley's 2,199 and David Houser's 2,358 (1974, 1976-78) His 17 touchdown catches are topped only by Dillard (60) and Houser (18) on the school all-time record chart Added 11 touchdowns on 102 carries for 392 yards (3.84 avg) Completed 4 of 12 passes for 37 yards, two touchdowns and one interception Returned 15 punts for 117 yards (7.8 avg) and gained 2,393 all-purpose yards, an average of 95.72 yards per game Set school single-season records with 111 receptions for 1,329 yards in 2008, topping the old marks of 91 catches for 1,247 yards by Dillard in 2006 Became the first player in school history to catch more than 100 passes in a season, setting the Conference USA annual record in the process, as only Casey and Arnold Jackson of Louisville (101 in 1999) reached the century mark in a season in league annals His 1,329 receiving yards placed third on the C-USA single-season record chart behind Donnie Avery of Houston (1,456 in 2007) and Roddy White of Alabama-Birmingham (1,452 in 2004) His 13 touchdown receptions rank fourth on the Rice single-season record list behind Dillard (14 in 2007, 20 in 2008, 21 in 2006) and placed seventh on the C-USA annual record chart Scored 116 points in 2008, joining Dillard (120 in 2008 and 126 in 2006) as the only Owls to score more than 100 pints in a season Became the first Owl to gain more than 200 yards receiving in a game, totaling 208 vs. Memphis in 2008 to top the old school single-game record of 196 yards by David Houser vs. Florida in 1976 His three touchdown receptions vs. Texas-El Paso in 2008 are topped only by Dillard's four scoring grabs vs. North Texas in 2008 on the school single-game record chart.
All-American first-team selection by The NFL Draft Report, earning third-team honors from Rivals.com Academic All-American second-team choice by ESPN Unanimous first-team All-Conference USA pick Named league Offensive Player of the Week vs. Memphis, Texas-El Paso and Houston Started all thirteen games at the "Y" receiver position, but also saw action at the other three receiver spots, in addition to playing quarterback and returning punts Set the school single-season records as he caught 111 of 142 passes targeted to him (78.17 percent) for 1,329 yards (12.0 avg) and thirteen touchdowns Led the conference and ranked second in the nation with an average of 8.54 receptions per game Placed second in the league and seventh nationally with an average of 192.23 receiving yards per game 67 of his receptions (60.36 percent) produced first downs, as he converted 14 of 25 third-down throws (56 percent) Proving to be the team's "money player," 32 of his receptions came inside the red zone, as he had big catches to set up 27 touchdown drives and three other series that ended with field goals.
|2008 Game Analysis|
Southern Methodist Casey caught six of the nine balls targeted to him in the season opener, posting 53 yards that included a 7-yard touchdown late in the first quarter that capped a 73-yard, 6-play possession Also rushed nine times for 47 yards, scoring on a 1-yard burst midway through the third stanza Also set up Chase Clement's 21-yard touchdown toss to Jarett Dillard with an 11-yard grab, a 6-yard carry and a 4-yard gain on a third-&-1 reverse that was followed by the scoring strike.
Memphis Casey brought down eleven of the sixteen passes into his territory, as he set up three touchdown drives and two other series that ended with field goals He registered nine first downs among those eleven grabs, including a third-&-8 snatch for 22 yards to set up a 24-yard field goal after the team's game-opening possession At the start of the second half, he ended a 77-yard, 10-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown run His fourth quarter 9 and 11-yard catches was followed by Casey clearing a path used by QB Chase Clement for an 8-yard touchdown run On the next series, he set up Clements' 5-yard scoring lob to Jarett Dillard with a 41-yarder, followed by catching a two-point conversion to end that 5-play, 69-yard possession An 8-yard catch and a 47-yarder set up Clements' game-winning 8-yard scoring scamper with 1:15 left in the game for a 42-35 decision Record Watch: Casey's 208 yards broke the old school single-game record of 196 by David Houser vs. Florida in 1976.
Vanderbilt Casey and Jarett Dillard each topped 100 receiving yards, as the tight end tallied 115 yards on twelve receptions He also scored late in the second quarter on a 2-yard run to conclude an 80-yard, 11-play drive Casey pushed his streaks to nine consecutive games with at least five receptions and 12-straight games with a catch.
Texas It was a quiet day, as Casey gained 51 yards while catching eight of the twelve passes thrown his way.
North Texas Casey had another eight receptions, gaining 92 yards After a 25-yard catch, he made a key block down field on a 25-yard scoring burst by QB Chase Clement His second quarter 10-yard catch was downed the UNT 6, where Clement again ran the ball in for a 6-yard score Talking about his receivers after the game, Clement said, "That's why JD [Jarett Dillard] and James [Casey] have had so much success this year, because everybody is a weapon. We've got an opportunity to go to each receiver on every play. Everybody's got their unique skills that they bring to the offense. As much as we can do offensively, that's helped all of our players. It's been good for those guys to step up and realize they've got just as much a role as anybody else on this offense."
Tulsa Casey caught nine pass for 120 yards and had a hand in three of the Owls four touch-downs He scored on a 2-yard run for the Owls' first score of the day and he threw a 2-yard scoring pass to Taylor Wardlow in the third quarter He then caught a 6-yard pass from Chase Clement to round out the scoring for Rice Listed as the Owls' starter at tight end, he actually started the Tulsa game in the backfield at running back Also had his first career punt return during the game, returning it 40 yards before being taken down at the Tulsa 1-yard line.
Southern Mississippi The tight end made seven receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns, adding 32 yards on six carries In addition to coming up with a pair of 26-yard scoring grabs, Casey recovered a fumble and returned the ball and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Talking about his fumble recovery after the game, he noted, "It was bizarre but it landed into my hand and I thought this is nice. I got the ball and there was nobody around me so it was nice. But it was kind of bizarre - there was a split second where I thought, no, but it bounced right to me. It worked out. It was one of those times. A lot of those lucky breaks - it's one of those old things where if you work hard you get lucky. So I worked hard and I got lucky on that play."
Tulane Casey generated 45 yards on two carries and 51 yards on six receptions He ended a late first quarter 94-yard, 16-play series with a 7-yard scoring reception The team got the ball back on a fumble two minutes later and Chase Clement wasted no time in tossing a 17-yard touch-down to Casey that gave Rice a 21-0 lead.
Texas-El Paso The tight end snared every pass thrown to him (12), good for 142 yards and three touchdowns, scoring on 37, 4 and 12-yard grabs He also carried seven times for 28 yards and a 2-yard score midway through the third quarter Record Watch: His 142 yards receiving allowed him to move past Melvin Robinson (1981-84) and Doug Cunningham (1975-78) for fourth place on Rice's career list.
Houston For the first time since 2004, the Bayou Bucket will reside at Rice as the Owls rode the all-around play of Casey and an inspired effort from a defense to defeat Houston, 56-42, in front largest crowd to see at game at Rice Stadium in over eight seasons,..Casey smashed the C-USA season receiving record, catching 12 for 172 yards and three touchdowns, ran for a fourth score and threw for a fifth It was the second time this year that the multi-talented Casey has caught, ran and thrown for a touchdown in the same game His day started with a 1-yard scoring run that capped a 9-play, 72-yard first quarter series It followed with second quarter touchdown grabs of 2 and 23 yards He added a 9-yard touchdown snatch in the third quarter At the start of the fourth quarter, he ended a 9-play, 96-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown toss to Taylor Wardlow Record Watch: His 12 catches raised his season total to 104, making him the first Rice receiver to top 100 catches, and breaking the previous conference record of 101, set by Arnold Jackson of Louisville in 1999 Casey also became the second player in Rice history to catch at least ten touchdown passes in a season He now has 150 career receptions and is just two catches shy of equaling David Houser (1974, 76-78) for third place on the Rice list.
Western Michigan (Texas Bowl) In what would be his final college game, Casey pulled down seven passes for 112 yards and a touchdown With 1:15 left in the first half, QB Chase Clement found his tight end with a 45-yard touchdown pass.
Freshman All American first-team selection by the Football Writers Association, adding second-team honors from The Sporting News and Rivals.com Consensus Conference USA All-Freshman Team choice Named the Athletic Department's Freshman of the Year at the end of the 2007-08 school year Awarded the Conference USA Academic Medal for posting a grade point average of better than 3.75 Started four of twelve games, ranking second on the team with 46 receptions for 585 yards (12.7 avg) and four touchdowns Carried 45 times for 144 yards (3.2 avg) and five scores Completed 2 of 7 passes (28.6 percent) for 32 yards and one interception Returned one punt for 5 yards Played seven different positions vs. Southern Mississippi, making three tackles (2 solos) that included an assisted sack, 1.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage, two catches for 16 yards and twelve carriers for 38 yards and a touchdown Gained over 100 yards receiving in each of the Marshall, Tulane and Tulsa clashes.
|2007 Game Analysis|
Caught a season-best 11 passes for 110 yards vs. Tulsa Totaled 113 yards on six catches that included two touchdowns vs. Tulane Rushed the ball three times for 11 yards vs. Nicholls State, as his first two carries resulted in first downs and his third produced his first college touchdown on the ground Attempted his first pass vs. Baylor Saw action at seven positions vs. Southern Mississippi, rushing for 39 yards and a touchdown, catching two passes for 16 yards, throwing an interception on offense, and picking up a special teams tackle and two others for losses while at defensive end, as he shared a sack with Chris Jones and picked up a second tackle for loss Caught five passes for 60 yards and his first career receiving touchdown vs. Memphis, as he also completed his first career pass for a 24-yard gain.
Retired from pro baseball at the end of the 2006 baseball season and sent out inquiries to a number of schools, including Rice, where his former HS teammate (Dustin Hufsey) was on the team and forwarded his information on to the coaching staff.
No major injuries or lost game time reported at Rice.
Combine: 4.74 in the 40-yard dash 1.56 10-yard dash 2.71 20-yard dash 4.48 20-yard shuttle 7.00 three-cone drill 36-inch vertical jump 9'3" broad jump Bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times 30 5/8-inch arms 9 1/2-inch hands.
Attended Azle (Texas) High School Standout in football and baseball Earned All- District honors as a quarterback during his junior campaign in 2001 Missed most of his senior football season with injury problems Named All-State and Academic All-State in baseball and was named District 6-4A Most Valuable Player as a senior Threw a no-hitter in first varsity game Member of the National Honor Society at Azele High.
Holds a 3.84 grade point average with a triple major in Economics, Managerial Studies and Sports Management Son of Jerry and the late Susan Casey Married, wife's name is Kylie Born James Byron Casey on 9/22/84 in Fort Worth, Texas Resides in Azle, Texas.