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Now it’s time to turn our attention to the 2014 tight end class.  The best “Joker” candidate is Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro.  The young tight end measured at 6’ 5 ¾” 265 lbs., and had a decent 40 time of 4.74.  I will first define the difference amarobetween a traditional tight end and a “joker’ tight end.  The Joker will line up everywhere in the formation that can give him an edge to get a free release, so this could be in the back field, slot, or split out on the line of scrimmage.  This position is not asked to block for very long or often.  Two examples of Joker tight ends are Jimmy Graham and former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez.

A traditional tight end will play a major role as a blocker in the running game as well as excel at catching the ball.  Two examples of a more traditional tight end are Jason Witten and Rob Gronkowski. For instance fellow 2014 class tight end North Carolina’s Eric Ebron plays a role closer to the traditional tight end.  I reviewed six Texas Tech 2013 games (TCU, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Texas, and Oklahoma State) to get a better idea of the skill set that Amaro will bring to the NFL. 

This tight end gets away from the jam on the line of scrimmage by uncoiling a nice punch that creates initial space and uses his quick feet to maneuver around the defender. He is usually uncovered where he lines up, but chances are that Amaro will see a lot more pressure than he ever saw in college.  The former Red Raider is a decent blocker on pass plays, especially on screens.  He struggles mightily sealing the edge on run blocks and doesn’t give the same effort on running plays.  In fact, when plays go to the other side of the field, the tight end sometimes shows a little effort to assist his teammates.

When it comes to his effort as a pass catcher, Amaro is outstanding.  He runs crisp routes, shows good footwork, looks and plays like an oversized wide receiver.  His bread and butter plays are crossing routes and inside slants.  By running most of these routes in the middle of the field, Amaro spends a lot of time jockeying for position and has become one of the best hand fighters in his class.  He is constantly taking on safeties, linebackers, and corner backs who try to double and triple cover him. At times, it looks like he is wearing defenders as suits as he doesn’t need to get much separation to come down with contested passes.  The tight end tries to deliver punishment when someone is tackling him: falling on top of them, throwing a shoulder, whatever it takes.  I love the way he bounces off would-be tacklers with his good center of gravity.  He keeps his legs churning much like a running back, and will make the defense lay if they don’t knock him to the ground.  If the tight end is near the end zone, Amaro will do whatever it takes to score.

As a downfield receiving threat, Amaro tracks the ball well in the air and can sky above his coverage to come down with the ball. If the ball is thrown in his area, the tight end always finds a way to at least get a hand on the ball.  There aren’t too many players that will sacrifice themselves for the ball like he does.  He always seems to catch the ball with the palms of his hands.  Amaro is quite fluid with loose hips for a man his size. It isn’t uncommon for him to set up deep routes with double or triple moves, designed to create separation between him and the defense.   The tight end also uses his strong upper body to swat defenders away from his body once he has secured the ball. He always knows where he is on the field at all times, and fights for every first down he can.

In the short passing game, he can lull a defense to sleep.  This is because he plays lazily at times on running plays as this allows him to drift down the field and find spots in zone coverage.  He is also very effective on bubble screens and can take the defense by surprise with a few well planned wheel routes.  Amaro has a knack for reading his blockers and uses the sidelines to get the most out of his opportunities.  He is his scariest when he catches the ball in stride in the middle of the field as his after-burners kick in and it’s hard to stop him.

 There were a couple minor character concerns that came up during his college career:  an issue of fraud and his bowl game ejection.  I really don’t think there is much to his credit card fraud charges that occurred early in his college career (they were later dropped), but Amaro lost his temper, punched a Minnesota safety, and got thrown out of the game.  This came as a huge surprise and the tight end later apologized for his actions.

Amaro has played in a very target heavy environment, so the jury is out if he has adjust to being a more complementary weapon.  He would be a great weapon for a team like the Patriots or the Panthers as the second tight end.  It’s his lack of adaptability that puts him squarely behind Ebron in my eyes, but ahead of the rest of the rookie tight ends.

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