Before we get started, take a quick look at the list of all the college standouts who have made an appearance in Tuesday Afternoon Prospect's inaugural season.
|Sammy Watkins||Wide Receiver||Clemson|
|Jake Matthews||Offensive Tackle||Texas A&M|
|Mike Evans||Wide Receiver||Texas A&M|
|Cyril Richardson||Offensive Guard||Baylor|
|Kyle Van Noy||Outside Linebacker||BYU|
|Eric Ebron||Tight End||UNC|
|Aaron Donald||Defensive Tackle||Pittsburgh|
|Brandin Cooks||Wide Receiver||Oregon State|
|James Hurst||Offensive Tackle||UNC|
|Allen Robinson||Wide Receiver||Penn State|
|Darqueze Dennard||Cornerback||Michigan State|
|Jordan Matthews||Wide Receiver||Vanderbilt|
It should come as no surprise that the second most prolific passing attack in the nation this season was accomplished by the Red Raiders of Texas Tech, who have made a living among college football's top ten passing offenses for more than a decade now. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Texas Tech's latest version of the "Air Raid" is the fact that the player who prospered the most was tight end Jace Amaro. This was a bit surprising for two reasons. For one, the receiver position has been the primary beneficiary ever since this high octane offense's inception. Secondly, Amaro was for all intents and purposes an outright revelation.
Entering 2013, Amaro was coming off his best season to date, one in which he posted 25 catches for 409 yards and 4 touchdowns in only 7 games. These were certainly respectable statistics, but these aren't exactly the type of numbers that could have accurately predicted his 98 receptions(8th nationally), 1,240 yards(12th nationally), 7 touchdown monster encore performance this season. You have to go all the way back to 2008 to find the last FBS tight end to eclipse a thousand yards(Dennis Pitta-key target for Joe Flacco during their Super Bowl run last year).
As the data can attest, Amaro is an absolute mismatch nightmare. Whether he lines up inside or outside, there is very little defenders can do to stop the 6-Foot-5, 260-Pound Plano, Texas native. Not only is he adept at finding soft spots against zone coverage, but he also is proficient at gaining separation versus man coverage, which is a testament to his deceptive speed and crafty route running. One of the strength's that shines the most on tape is his ability to gain those all important yards after the catch. As you can imagine, Amaro is a load to take down and he fights hard for every last yard.
Quite possibly the most revealing insight into who he is as a competitor was put on display when the Red Raiders went on the road to play West Virginia halfway through the season. According to his coach(Kliff Kingsbury), Amaro approached him on the sideline immediately after the Mountaneers went up 11 points in the second half and asked for the game to be placed on his shoulders. Kingsbury responded by telling him the ball was going to be coming his way, and he didn't disappoint. By the time Texas Tech had come back to win the game, Amaro had amassed 9 catches, 136 yards and 2 touchdowns. There is little doubt that leaving Morgantown that day with a victory would have been virtually impossible without the confidence of the junior tight end. Amaro's bravado and skill set as a pass catcher is reminiscent of former Panthers' tight end Jeremy Shockey.
Of course, Amaro isn't a perfect prospect(let me know when you find one). Simply put, his blocking needs to improve. He shows flashes of blocking brilliance, but is too inconsistent when it comes to his desire and technique. The good news is that he has excellent strength and should be able to vastly improve with some professional coaching. Despite a season that saw him haul in at least 8 receptions in 8 straight games, I wouldn't say that his hands are great. Don't get me wrong. He has good hands, but he will occasionally lose focus and drop an uncontested on-target pass. The good news is that this is something that can be easily cleaned up with hard work, which is one of his strengths.
In summary, Amaro is the type of threat that the Panthers could use in tandem with Greg Olsen to open this offense up in a way they haven't experienced since the aforementioned Shockey was around. If he chooses to forego his senior season, there is a good chance that he will be there for the Panthers in the first round, but not in the second. I realize that there are some who will say a tight end would be too much of a luxury at that point, and I get it. Presently, there are greater needs. But none of us can discount the fact that Gettleman will do his best to set their 2014 draft up for success by filling some needs beforehand in free agency. At this early stage, we must take the wait and see approach before we start calling certain prospects a luxury. Besides, when is the last time the Panthers used a hefty amount of cash and/or an early pick to provide our franchise quarterback with multiple game changing offensive weapons? In case you haven't been paying attention, the answer is never.
What say you, CSR? Be sure to let everyone know what you think in the poll and the comment section that follows. Before you do, be sure to watch Amaro's game film below.