Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at each of the Jets draft picks. We’re now looking at each of the undrafted rookies, continuing today with an in-depth look at former Penn State wide receiver Irvin Charles.
The 25-year old Charles is listed at 6’4” and 219 pounds and caught 39 passes for 792 yards and 12 touchdowns last season for Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He had originally attended Penn State before being kicked off the team in 2017 and last year was his first game action since then.
Charles was a four-star high school recruit from the New Jersey area and was recruited to Penn State all the way back in 2015. After redshirting his first season, Charles made an impact in 2016 with a vital 80-yard touchdown reception in a win over Minnesota. However, he only made two other catches.
In 2017, he didn’t have any receptions, although he played a key role on special teams. At the end of the season, he was kicked off the team and ended up sitting out the 2018 season.
After being recruited to IUP in 2019, he sat out his first year due to academic ineligibility and then the 2020 season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He finally got back on the field last year and posted good numbers with 39 catches, 792 yards and 12 scores.
Charles was not invited to the scouting combine, although he did attend the College Gridiron Showcase and worked out at Villanova’s pro day. He was picked up by the Jets as an undrafted free agent immediately after the draft.
Now let’s take a look at what Charles brings to the table, divided into categories.
Charles has excellent size and a massive catch radius. He ran a 4.66 in his pro day workout, but reportedly ran sub-4.5 in the past, although that was several years ago.
His explosiveness and agility numbers - including a 6.97 three cone drill and 127-inch vertical - are excellent for his size and he managed 19 bench press reps.
Charles was primarily employed as an outside receiver, although he did also line up in the slot a few times each game. He also carried the ball twice for seven yards while he was at IUP.
Charles showcased his abilities as a downfield threat last season, as he averaged over 20 yards per reception. He gets deep for a downfield catch here despite being bracketed in double coverage.
At Penn State, he beat future Jets draft pick Jeremy Clark to draw a pass interference penalty on a deep ball that was underthrown.
With several years of experience and playing at a lower level, you’d expect Charles to be able to get open easily last season and that was often the case, although he could usually just rely on his size advantage.
Here’s a play where he uses his hands well to work his way off press coverage in the red zone and catches a touchdown pass.
The first thing Charles will need to prove with the Jets is that his hands are more reliable than he showed at Penn State. He was targeted 14 times while playing for the Nittany Lions and dropped more (four) than he caught (three).
These were all catchable balls too, and it seemed like Charles was distracted by the potential for a defensive hit or by trying to run before he had secured the ball on a couple of them. This one was the worst because it almost led to an interception.
Although he did a better job of not dropping passes at IUP he still dropped this potential touchdown pass.
When he is managing to catch the ball, Charles shows an ability to go up and get it and also shows good concentration on deflected or inaccurate passes.
At 6’4”, Charles has obvious potential as a red zone target and he delivered on this last season with 12 total touchdowns in just nine games. You can obviously throw it up to a spot for him to go up and get.
After the catch
Charles shows some good ability to run away from, or over defenders in the open field. On this play in the CGS all-star game, he scored on a screen pass.
His one big moment at Penn State was this long touchdown that saw him break free from a tackler down the field.
With his size, Charles can obviously have an advantage when blocking on the edge and he backs this up with good effort and aggressiveness.
He shows good awareness, decent strength and the footwork to readjust his angle when blocking in the running game. He’s also a player who can be effective at finding someone to block down the field.
He can also be over-aggressive at times with five holding penalties in his two years with the Nittany Lions. Three of these were on special teams.
In addition to his aggressive play as a blocker and when carrying the ball, Charles shows good strength at the catch point to keep separation from his defender. He can use his body to box out both in the red zone and on back shoulder throws.
Charles made a real impact as a punt gunner at Penn State, consistently getting downfield to force fair catches. He also racked up 13 tackles for them covering kicks and punts, plus another three last year at IUP, and forced this fumble that was returned for a score.
Charles doesn’t have any experience as a return man, but did rush punts and saw some action as a vice on the punt return team.
He had six special teams penalties in two years at Penn State, including two personal fouls for running out of bounds in punt coverage and kick catch interference.
Instincts and Intelligence
Charles seemed to handle his assignments well when blocking and showed some ability to find open areas downfield when plays were extended. Ultimately, though, he was essentially always open at the Division II level anyway because he would consistently have a size advantage on his man.
In terms of mental errors, Charles was not known for these but did have a false start on a punt once at Penn State.
As noted, he had academic eligibility issues after leaving Penn State.
Charles obviously left Penn State in disappointing circumstances as he was kicked off the program along with another player for a violation of team rules, the full nature of which was never fully disclosed. There is also some talk among Penn State fans that he always had a poor attitude and by the time he was off the team he had fallen out of the rotation on offense anyway.
This is obviously a concern, but this would presumably have been a humbling experience for Charles, who showed some resilience by restoring his reputation somewhat last season.
On the field, his discipline could have been better as he had eight penalties in two seasons with Penn State despite not playing that much.
Although he only played 34 games in seven years, Charles doesn’t seem to have had any issues with injuries.
Charles has had the advantage of being in college football for several years, even though he only saw action in three of those seasons. He also got playing time in two different systems.
Playing in Division II, he presumably was in a much simpler system than the Jets will run, although playing at Penn State will perhaps stand him in good stead.
If there’s a role for him on offense in the early going, perhaps it could be as a potential red zone specialist. However, his best chance of earning a role would be to establish himself as a candidate to be a full-time punt gunner.
Charles, who - despite being a rookie - is older than Sam Darnold, is an interesting case who had a bright future ahead of him but his college career didn’t go to plan. Penn State head coach James Franklin once referred to Charles as “maybe the most talented receiver I’ve been around” so it may be that unrealized potential that interests the Jets most of all.
The fact he was an effective punt gunner gives him a potential route onto the roster or practice squad that could buy him time and ensure he gets to develop over the next year and then return to training camp next season with a more realistic shot at contributing.
He’s obviously a real long-shot to make it at this level but he reportedly stood out at rookie camp. Then again, he was three or four years older than most of the other players there, which isn’t an advantage he’ll have during the rest of the offseason.