Four Prospects Set to Upend Draft Boards
4. Jace Amaro – Tight End – Texas Tech
The 2014 tight end class promises to be both deep and loaded with talent, perhaps enough so to rival a 2010 class that gave us two of the top tight ends in the league, Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. While this year’s tight end class has received its share of attention, and promises to see its top players go early on in the draft, its best pure receiver may be obscured thus far by the more recognizable names atop the rankings.
After catching just seven passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman at Texas Tech, Amaro was on his way to a breakout sophomore campaign (23 receptions for 394 yards and four TDs) before a spleen injury forced him to miss the final six games of the regular season. Healthy again in 2013, expect Amaro to pick up where he left off before the injury and make a legitimate case for being the top tight end in next year’s draft.
What Makes Him Special: Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 257 pounds, Amaro possesses the speed, athleticism, and natural receiver skills to be the matchup nightmare that offensive coordinators covet. More accustomed to splitting out than to playing from an inline position, Amaro fits the prototype of the “joker” tight end that has become such a hot commodity in today’s league. He has a natural size advantage over defensive backs and possesses the vertical explosiveness to make defenses pay for covering him one-on-one with a linebacker.
Amaro’s size enables him to outreach most defenders and shield them from the football, combining with his speed and quickness to make him a viable target in the red zone. He shows some toughness and ability to fight for yards after contact, an area that will improve with time spent in an NFL conditioning program, and his speed gives him the ability to outrun defenders and pick up huge chunks of yards after the catch.
Where He Must Improve: Amaro is strictly a receiver at this point, and while he demonstrates the ability to handle physicality at the catch point, he shows little interest in performing his duties as a blocker. There is certainly room on an NFL roster for one-dimensional tight ends with Amaro’s ability to make an impact in the passing game, but he could greatly improve his versatility and value to his team by giving more consistent effort and improving his technique as a blocker. His injury was a freak occurrence, but as a relatively inexperienced player, even at the college level, remaining healthy for the entire year to maximize his in-game experience will benefit Amaro as he prepares for the next level.
How He Stacks Up: With the depth and level of talent available at the top of the upcoming tight end class, it may be difficult for a dark horse to lay claim to the top spot in such an established group. Most draft boards have Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Colt Lyerla, Eric Ebron, and C.J. Fiedorowicz leading the way heading into the college football season.
Perhaps the player with the most upside in the passing game, Amaro has only just begun generating some buzz based on the limited sample of his talent and ability from the 2012 season. New Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury plans to use Amaro in the same slot receiver role in which Ryan Swope flourished while playing under the then-offensive coordinator at Texas A&M. If Swope’s receiving numbers (72 receptions for 913 yards and eight touchdowns) in that role are any indication, Amaro should get plenty of opportunities to put his athleticism and pass-catching talent on display as a junior.