Former UMass WR Tajae Sharpe ready for NFL draft

  • Massachusetts wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (1) gains yardage as Temple defensive back Sean Chandler tries to slow him down in the first half of an NCAA college football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Gretchen Ertl)

  • Massachusetts-Amherst receiver Tajae Sharpe runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

  • UMass wide receiver Tajae Sharpe during an NFL football Pro Day at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass., Thursday, March 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tajae Sharpe honestly isn’t sure how he’ll react when his name is called at this week’s NFL draft.

“I tried to picture it so many times, but I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t want to think about it too much,” said UMass’ all-time leading receiver at last month’s pro day. “When it comes I’ll just let my emotions be natural.”

Very little about the predraft process has been exactly as Sharpe pictured it leading up to the three-day draft that runs Thursday (round one), Friday (rounds two and three) and Saturday (rounds four-seven) in Chicago.

The second-team Walter Camp All-American has been busy since his senior season concluded. He played in the Senior Bowl and was invited to the Shrine Game, but didn’t compete due to a quad injury.

He participated in the NFL combine, UMass pro day, and several private workouts and interviews.

“I heard (the draft prep process) was hectic, but you don’t know how it’s going to be until you’re in that moment,” he said. “It’s winding down. It was a great experience.”

Sharpe wasn’t trying to guess who might take him.

“Teams talk to you, but I’ve heard a lot of guys get taken by teams that never even spoke to them,” he said. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen until their name is actually called.”

The 6-foot-2, 194-pound New Jersey native caught 111 passes for 1,319 yards and five touchdowns last fall.

At the combine, Sharpe ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash and jumped 33½ inches (vertical) and 114 inches (broad). His hands measured small for an NFL receiver at the combine 8 inches, but his catching performance seemed to allay any fears about them.

What the scouts say

ESPN.com ranked Sharpe as the 180th best player in the draft and the No. 22 receiver and describes his potential as follows:

“Sharp is a four-year starter that is coming off of highly productive 2015 campaign. He led the FBS in receptions with 111 and his 1,319 yards were 12th overall while adding five touchdowns. He has reliable ball skills despite smaller hands (8 3/8”). Sharp needs to continue to get stronger but he is polished route runner who is reliable enough to develop into a number three or four receiver at the next level. Vertical jump (33.5”) is nearing red flag territory (32”) for the position. He projects as mid-day three selection in the 2016 NFL draft.”

FoxSports.com also had him No. 22 among receivers with this analysis:

“Sharpe is not known for his straight-line speed and could serve as more of a possession-type receiver — likely working out of the slot — at the next level. The sure-handed Sharpe could be tough for defensive backs to handle on short or intermediate routes. His tall frame might also give him an advantage in those 50-50 ball scenarios if needed to go deep. Scouts like the fact that Sharpe is a good route runner and open to coaching and improving his overall game. The NFL team that selects Sharpe likely will want him to bulk up in order to break more tackles and produce more yards after contact than he did in college.”

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein predicted a good future for him:

“Sharpe is the most productive receiver to come out of UMass, and as a receiver who turned 21 in December, it is conceivable that he could still be filling out his long frame. Sharpe has the athleticism, hands and feel for space to work from the slot and the size and route acumen to work outside. It might take a year, but he has the talent and football character to become a productive NFL receiver.”

Sports Illustrated called him the No. 3 prospect from the Mid-American Conference:

“He can win on balls deep up the sideline but tends to be at his most electrifying on routes over the middle, making catches and then accelerating into the open field. Sharpe averaged 15.1 yards on his 85 grabs last season.

A scout told NFLDraftScout.com that Sharpe was a highlight of watching MAC play.

“I have to admit, I don’t get too excited about visiting some MAC schools, but Whip (head coach Mark Whipple) has this UMass program developing talent and that Sharpe kid is one of them,” an AFC West scout told NFLDraftScout.com during the 2015 season. “Crisp routes and strong hands. He’ll have a chance to make plays on Sundays.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage