Between now and preseason, we’ll be breaking down the Jets’ undrafted rookies. Today, we break down former Kutztown wide receiver Jerome Kapp.
The 23-year old Kapp, who was known as Jerry Kapp earlier on in his career, is listed at 6’3” and 210 pounds and was an all-PSAC Eastern Division first-teamer in 2022. He caught 122 passes for almost 2,200 yards and 22 touchdowns in three years with the Golden Bears and signed with the Jets after attending their rookie camp on a tryout basis in May.
Kapp earned all-state recognition as a defensive back in high school but wasn’t a highly sought after recruit. He instead headed to Seton Hill and converted to wide receiver, but suffered an injury before the season and did not play.
After spending that season on a medical redshirt, Kapp transferred to Kutztown and had a productive first season for them in 2019. He caught 32 passes for 462 yards and five scores.
2020 was cancelled for all Division II teams due to the pandemic, but Kapp returned in 2021 and racked up 43 catches for 812 yards and eight scores. In 2022, his numbers were even better with 47 receptions, 916 yards and nine scores in two fewer games and he earned all-PSAC Eastern Division first team recognition.
Despite having two years of eligibility remaining, Kapp opted to enter the NFL draft in 2022, although his chances of being drafted were slim. He attended Temple’s pro day and did a solid job but was not selected, as expected.
Having been initially unable to find a team willing to sign him to an undrafted free agent deal, he was invited to try out at rookie camp with the Jets and Jaguars and obviously made a strong impression with the Jets, as they signed him to a deal with no guaranteed money shortly afterwards.
Now let’s take a look at what Kapp brings to the table, divided into categories.
Kapp has excellent height and adequate size and length with big hands. He was a size mismatch for most teams at the Division II level.
During his pro day workout most of his numbers were around average, but he did post a good broad jump (125 inches) and three-cone drill (6.79). His 40-yard dash was 4.58 which is adequate for a player with his size and he posted 13 bench press reps.
Kapp was primarily used as an outside receiver at Kutztown but did have some plays where he was in the slot or sent in motion. During his career he also had six carries as a runner, gaining 56 yards. He also threw three passes, completing one for a five-yard touchdown.
As noted, he was mostly a defensive back in high school but he also played wide receiver and some quarterback.
Kapp was a legitimate deep threat at the Division II level as he can get behind defensive backs even when they give him a big cushion and tracks the ball well on downfield passes.
In 2022 alone, Kapp had at least one 40-yard play in seven of 11 games, so he was a viable big play threat.
Whether or not Kapp can get deep against NFL defensive players will be another matter though.
Kapp is a bit of a deceptive route runner because he is so big that this can make him look slow when actually he’s covering a lot of ground with his long strides.
He releases well off the line, can make good breaks and sinks his hips well towards the top of his route stem, but didn’t really get that many chances to showcase his ability to run a full route tree since a lot of his production was underneath, on go-routes or in the flat.
One key for him is how he uses his body to create natural separation down the field. He leans on the defensive player effectively here after getting outside leverage.
Kapp is able to make contested catches and one thing he’s particularly adept at is adjusting to the ball in the air.
He seems to be a natural catcher of the ball but did have some drops. This one in particular was especially costly because he couldn’t make the one-handed grab and it ended up being a pick-six.
With 17 touchdowns in the past two seasons, Kapp has established himself as a good red zone threat, primarily being someone who you can throw it up to on a fade and he’ll go up to get it.
After the catch
Kapp isn’t just a big guy who can run down and catch it if you throw it up to him. He’s also effective on short passes and in space, showing everything you’d hope to see from a big, athletic receiver playing against Division II talent.
Kapp can run through or shake off tackles, and he accelerates well once he gets into the open field and finishes strong at the end of plays to fall forwards for an extra few yards.
Kapp has the size and desire to be a good blocker, but this will be something he needs to work at because he can be inconsistent at times. On this play he lets his man run past him in space, although he did recover to knock him to the ground at the end of the play.
On this play he’s a little late to transition into blocking position and his angle leaves his man with an inside leverage advantage so he can get off the block and slow the ball carrier up.
Kapp’s size makes it natural for him to be physical while running his routes and his experience on defense may help him there. He also has had some success fighting off the jam in press coverage.
His size is also a major asset at the catch point. He holds off his man effectively here for the catch.
Kapp has acknowledged that he knows special teams will be important if he’s to have any chance of making a good enough impression to earn viable opportunities to contribute in the long run.
He played special teams, including on the kickoff coverage unit, in 2019 and the early part of the 2021 season but didn’t make any notable contributions. He apparently worked with every unit in OTA’s.
Instincts and Intelligence
Kapp is regarded as a smart player who picked up the system quickly when there was a coaching change in 2021.
Here’s a play where he shows his knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverage on a third down conversion.
Kapp had plenty of academic honors in college as he was on the dean’s list three times, won three academic achievement awards and was a four-time PSAC scholar-athlete.
Kapp’s character has received glowing reviews from his former coaches. He loves football, has a team-first attitude and is a good teammate who was a leader and team captain at Kutztown.
His work ethic is also impressive as he is regarded as a gym rat who always practices hard, driven by a constant desire to keep improving.
Kapp played in 39 games in his three seasons with the Golden Bears so injuries didn’t affect him significantly. He did miss the opener in 2019 when he broke his thumb but then showed impressive toughness when he had two pins inserted and played with a partial club on his left hand. He still caught a touchdown pass in his first game with the club.
He missed the entire 2018 season when he was still at Seton Hill with a broken foot.
Kapp is a bit like fellow undrafted free agent Jason Brownlee insofar as his most impressive skill seems to be making contested catches. In theory this could give him a potential specialist role while developing his other skills, but the Jets’ receiving corps is so deep that’s probably unlikely.
A better route to the roster for him might be to try and master the art of being a primary punt gunner.
Kapp has an interesting skill set, but he is basically a total wildcard, having been dominant at a much lower level. He seems to be dedicated to getting better so we’ll just have to wait and see how he responds to NFL-level coaching and adjusts to playing against more experienced and physical players.
It’s not unheard of for small school receivers to get to the NFL level and break out, although this is usually more likely to happen when the team in question has a weak receiver rotation, much like the Jets did when Wayne Chrebet and the artist formerly known as Robby Anderson earned a role. Kapp will probably need to focus on special teams, getting stronger and refining his route running and blocking techniques to have a chance to return and compete in 2024.