STILLWATER OK - NOVEMBER 27: Tightend James Hanna #82 of the Oklahoma Sooners beats out cornerback Andrew McGee #6 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys to score at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 27 2010 in Stillwater Oklahoma. The Sooners beat the Cowboys 47-41. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The fifth in a series of Q&A's about the Cowboys draft class of 2012 with the people who knew them best: the writers who covered them in college.
An interview with Rich DeCray (oneandonlyou) from SB Nation's great Oklahoma Sooners blog Crimson and Cream Machine.
1) The first thing that jumps off the page for Hanna are his measurables (6'4 250 w/a 4.5 40). How well did they translate to the football field?
Tangible numbers often skew what a player is truly capable of on the field. However, this may not be true for this kid. James Hanna's size instantly creates mismatches in the middle. He also has deceptive speed for a tight end. If you want to see how it translates to the field, look no further than the 2010 Bedlam game where Hanna rips off a game-breaking touchdown pass late in the 4th quarter.
2) Were his receiving stats as a senior a fair representation of his pass-catching abilities or is there more talent that could be unleashed at the next level?
There is definitely more talent there. His numbers were limited by the system he played in. With the introduction of the "Belldozer" formation, passes in the red zone were few and far between. Even more so was play calling. Josh Heupel rarely utilized the tight end in the passing game outside of their blocking abilities.
3) He went from 7 TD's as a junior to 2 as a senior. Was that because of some change in how he was used schematically or something defenses were doing? Could he be a serious red zone threat in the NFL?
As I mentioned above, the system didn't favor tight ends specifically in the red zone. When you have a bruising runner in Blake Bell under center, there is no need to throw the ball. Hanna has certainly shown promise in the receiving game but will need some work developing that skill set.
So, to answer your question...he can be successful at the next level given time. Patience is going to be the key here.
4) How was he as a run and pass blocker in college?
Oklahoma in recent years has begun to recruit tight ends for their ability to block. While Jermaine Gresham may have been the exception, James Hanna is not. He excelled in the pass protect and run blocking. But again, where as he has excelled in blocking, he still lacks in receiving skills...consider it the balance of the current situation and probably why many Sooner fans thought he would go as an undrafted free agent. However, he benefited from going against players like Ronnell Lewis and Frank Alexander every day.
5) What would you say is his ceiling as an NFL player and how likely is he to reach it (i.e. are there any off-field/character concerns)?
Hanna has been a more low key type of personality while at Oklahoma. He was never being mentioned in the same breathe as those with off-the-field issues. Dallas fans can rest assured that Hanna will be a solid ambassador for his dream team.
With that said, Hanna is in the mold of the new era tight ends. If Jason Witten takes this kid under his wing, the sky is the limit. Will he reach it? With patience and hard work, I think yes. He has the athletic ability coupled with the size and speed.