Not since Michael Crabtree have the Texas Tech Red Raiders had player with as much raw talent and natural ability as they have in Jace Amaro, their junior tight end. Just like with Crabtree, Amaro is one of the best players on the field in any contest he is a part of and just like Crabtree there are some off field concerns that need to be vetted.
Amaro is a tight end almost in name only as he technically can line up inline and has done so a few times. In every other sense, they use him as a wide receiver and to Amaro’s credit, he appears athletic enough where he could make that move permanently. They are not afraid to use him in every aspect of the route tree including sending him out on bubble screens.
Amaro missed the first half of their game with SMU due to an incident he had in Tech’s Bowl game where he threw a punch at an opposing Minnesota player. He was ejected and part of that ejection came with missing the first half of their season opener. There was also an arrest where Amaro and another player were accused with using a teammates’ credit card to make purchases at a bar. No charges were filed.
While he is basically used as a huge mismatch in space for the Red Raiders, Amaro projects as a tight end and while he may still largely be used in a joker role, he will still need to have a bigger role inline with his size. He is a huge weapon as a receiver and should only continue to improve in that area but his blocking is a huge work in progress and is extremely inconsistent in that area with the majority of times having a negative result. Amaro is part of a monster class of underclassmen tight ends and it remains to be seen who will come out and who will not, but Amaro still projects as a top 75 player should he opt to come out this year and there is a good chance he could make a huge move up boards as he will likely work out extremely well.
Vitals & Build
Amaro is listed at 6’5” 260lbs with an impressive build and athleticism. He shows good functional strength relative to the tasks he is assigned, but there are some questions to answer in this regard. Amaro has great feet, good body control, and pretty good long speed. He is not always explosive but he can operate well in small areas and show some quickness. The potential seems to be there for him to continue refining his body but it seems unlikely he will gain much more weight at the potential cost of athleticism.
Route Running & Technique
There is a slight bounce for Amaro coming out of a stance lined up as a receiver. It is not bad, but it could be better. There is not enough tape to evaluate how he comes out of a three-point stance at this stage.
Amaro is a little inconsistent with how he runs routes and there are times when he makes some mistakes with his body control that are noticeable. At times, he will show impressive footwork, quickness and body control on a whip route where he is extremely difficult to control. On the other hand, there are times when he runs routes too tall and cannot get a clean cut, so he ends up rounding them off and wins on his size and athleticism. He needs to do a better job of sinking his hips to have more control and explode out of those cuts more effectively. If he can do that, he should create separation effectively at the next level, even against the best opponents.
He has the all the tools to be a great route runner and there are certainly plenty of examples where he can do it, but it comes down to cleaning up some bad habits as well as getting more consistent. Amaro has a ton of experience running different kinds of routes and attacking down the field, which teams are going to love because he has the ability to stretch the field vertically or make catches short.
In addition to his overall athleticism, Amaro’s hands are probably the best attribute he brings to the table. He is extremely comfortable catching the ball with his hands, has the body control to get in position to make tough catches and has a huge catch radius. As long as the quarterback puts it in Amaro’s zip code, there is a chance he will come down with the football.
Amaro does a good job with positioning his body to make plays. He shields off opponents so they have nothing to hit but his body when he catches the football. It makes it difficult to stop him or get a hand in to poke the ball away. The one problem is that Amaro does take a good amount of abuse as opponents try to physically beat him up when he catches the football, but to this point, he takes the abuse and keeps going.
With his ability to stretch the field, Amaro has shown the ability to track the football well. He looks natural going to find the football and making the play. Amaro has also shown he is comfortable making catches by the sideline and knows how to make the catch and get his feet in bounds.
Run After Catch
Amaro can be good at times when it comes to making a catch and transitioning to a runner. His athleticism and speed make him able to make opponents pay down the field and while he will not be the fastest player on the field, he is not someone a team wants to see running in the open field. He can still work to improve how he catches the ball to put himself in position to run after the catch more effectively, but there is a ton of potential in there because of how he is able to contort his body when he catches the ball and how he is able to position his feet when he catches passes.
This area of his game is good, but it can get even better and he can be even more problematic for defenses. Much of this should happen simply with experience.
Amaro is big and appears to be more than powerful enough to be a good blocker. There are times when he will make great blocks, put the opponent on skates and drive him down the field. Too often, the results are underwhelming, he takes bad angles and will periodically make some curious decisions on who to block.
At times, Amaro makes the mistake of not breaking down to make blocks and ends up whiffing on blocking attempts. He needs to take better angles to the opponent he intends to block and do a better job of widening his base to shield them off from the play. Often times he is narrow and lets opponents get by him. There are also examples where Amaro will go to an opponent who is already being blocked by a teammate rather than getting an unblocked defender who ends up making the tackle.
His experience inline is extremely limited and that will take time. In certain respects, inline blocking is actually easier because the opponent has less room to operate and makes it easier to get a good block. There is also an element of feel and working in unison that is more difficult to learn with no experience. On the other hand, having to go out and make blocks in space is difficult and could make the adjustment a little easier to go inside.
The times when Amaro is inside, he is awkward and uncomfortable. He ends up lunging at the opponent and getting off balance which makes it difficult to make a good block. Amaro needs substantially more experience and technical work as a blocker whether inline or not and then just needs a ton of reps inline to get accustomed to doing it. The talent and ability is there to do it, but it just needs to improve a great deal.
At this point, Amaro’s best fit is as a joker tight end to complement an inline tight end. He certainly has the ability to learn to play inline but he has extremely limited experience there or in a three point stance, so throwing him in there is not a given. Split him out, put him in the slot, use him as an oversized wide out that can make plays until he can comfortably play inline and then he can basically line up anywhere and attack virtually any area of the field.
Based on where he is in his development as well as what he brings to the table athletically, he is comparable to Gavin Escobar who was drafted in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys this past year out of San Diego State. Escobar and Amaro both have impressive quick twitch ability and can make plays like a wide receiver. Amaro might have even more upside than Escobar but Escobar came into the NFL with more experience inline. Both will likely come into the league with a great deal to learn about blocking and the jump in competition from that front will be difficult. Still, they should be able to add an element to the offense right off the bat and give them an added element of size, strength and speed in the passing game.
So much is going to depend on which underclassmen declare and which do not, but Amaro has an obvious skill set that will make him an attractive weapon to NFL teams. He has incredibly impressive in how athletic he is but there is still more for him to learn and develop both as a route runner but far more so as a blocker. In many ways, he still in the embryonic stages in that regard to his game and that has to improve significantly. The character concerns are minor but worth vetting. Overall, the upside and talent of Jace Amaro make him worth a pick in the top 75 should he declare but there is certainly the possibility that he could make a big move up and possibly end up in the first round.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com