Texas Tech put together a stunning performance in the Holiday Bowl, easily beating two-touchdown favorite Arizona State by a score of 37-23. What came after the game, however, was a lot less shocking. The Red Raiders‘ star offensive weapon: TE Jace Amaro announced that he will be foregoing his senior year and entering the 2014 NFL Draft.
Amaro finished off a record-breaking campaign with one of his best performances of the year against the Sun Devils, totaling eight catches for 112 yards. He finished the season with a whopping 106 receptions for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns.
Though his numbers were a bit inflated by playing in Kliff Kingsbury’s pass-happy attack—an offense which ranked second nationally with 714 total passing attempts—the 6’5’’, 260-pound junior still proved to be a dangerous receiving weapon, and an absolute matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
He’s the latest in the “new wave” of tight ends, who are basically just overgrown wide receivers. Given the way dangerous receiving tight ends such as Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and Vernon Davis have begun to influence a shift in offensive philosophies in the pros, the demand and premium placed on tight ends who can create explosive plays in the passing game is only going to increase in the years to come.
Creating big plays in the passing game is something Amaro has certainly shown he can do, as evidenced by his 17 catches of 20 yards or more in 2013.
Considering the senior tight end crop for the 2014 draft is so weak due to the early defections of big-name players like Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz and Gavin Escobar, the only competition Amaro will have to worry about in terms of battling for the title of the top tight end in the class is fellow underclassmen Eric Ebron from North Carolina and Austin Seferian-Jenkins from Washington.
Though Seferian-Jenkins entered the season as the top projected prospect at the position, Amaro and Ebron ultimately ended up putting together the more impressive performances in 2013. All three players will likely be the in the first-round conversation and all three have a chance to hear their names called on the first night of the draft. If Amaro can put together a solid performance during workouts, though, he will likely solidify his status as the premier prospect at the position and a player who is worthy of being a top-20 pick.
The Tampa Bay Bucs, the Buffalo Bills, the Tennessee Titans, the New York Giants, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets are all tight end-needy teams picking in the top 20, who will likely do plenty of homework on the former Red Raider.