The Green Bay Packers may have made a committment to Andrew Quarless in the offseason, signing him to a two-year contract as a free agent, but he's not the tall, downfield threat at tight end the Packers are missing as long as Jermichael Finley remains unsigned.
Keeping Aaron Rodgers well-stocked with an abudance of weapons will always be a priority in Green Bay, and should the Packers choose to go that route in the first round or two of the upcoming NFL Draft, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro could be a possibility.
"I think it’s a great time for a tight end, and it’s a revolution position and I feel like I’ve had the greatest tight end season ever in college regarding receiving yards," said Amaro at the NFL Combine. "I feel like it’s a great time for me, and I feel like I did what I wanted to in college. I think this is a great chance for me to showcase what I can do in the NFL."
Indeed, Amaro set a major college football (FBS) record last season with 1,352 receiving yards for a player classified as a tight end and did so on 107 catches to go along with seven touchdowns.
For having that kind of production, it's perhaps curious that Amaro wasn't named the John Mackey Award winner as the nation's top tight end, an honor given to Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who had a fraction of the catches and yards with 36 for 450 yards but did have eight touchdowns.
Maybe part of the reason had to do with the ambiguity of Amaro being split out to the slot so often in a quasi-wide receiver role. In addition to being a semi-finalist for the Mackey Award, he was also a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award given to the nation's most outstanding receiver.
Considering the circumstances, it's almost hard to fathom the statistics Amaro put up in 2013, including having two true freshmen throw him the football the vast majority of the season. But the situations he had to overcome on the football field didn't end there.
"In the beginning of the season, (defenses) would play a little man (coverage)," said Amaro. "But after the first or second game was when they bracket coveraged me almost the entire game. It was basically getting totally schemed the entire game. I think that plays a big part of what I really can do, being double teamed the entire year and still pulling the numbers that I did."
Amaro's prolific junior season—he declared for the Draft as an underclassman—is setting him up as a potential late first round draft pick.
"What he needs to do is in today's NFL, you know, at 250, 260 pounds, if you can run 4.5 and catch the football, then you're probably a first round pick," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "And I think that's what he needs to do. He's played that inside slot position at Tech and he's shown an ability and a lot of production."
While Amaro didn't end up running in the 4.5 to 4.6 range in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine (4.74 seconds), he did put up several impressive numbers during his workout. Among the 22 tight ends invited, Amaro finished among the top five in every measured exercise with the exception of the three-cone drill while officially checking in at 6' 5" and 265 lbs.
According Gil Brandt of NFL.com, Amaro improved his 40 time to as fast as 4.68 seconds at his on-campus pro day, where the Packers were one of 20 NFL teams in attendance.
If the Packers were to take Amaro as high as the 21st overall selection where they currently sit, it would be a surprise to many. The Texas Tech product is ranked as the 36th overall prospect by NFLDraftScout.com. But if the Packers don't want to face the potential of Amaro being gone by the next time they're on the clock, maybe they might consider selecting him in the first round.
In order to be selected as high as Round 1, however, the Packers or any NFL team is going to have to be comfortable with Amaro's character. During the Texas Tech's appearance in the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl, he was ejected for throwing a punch and subsequently suspended for the first half of the 2013 season opener by the Big 12 Conference.
Amaro's next NFL team is also going to have to be content with his blocking, which isn't considered a forté.
With the Packers, Finley never was considered a strong blocking tight end either, but he was the type of big target that could stretch the seam. Head coach Mike McCarthy has said the Packers haven't yet closed the door on bringing Finley back, but he would have to be cleared by doctors first, which has the team taking a wait-and-see approach.
Should the Packers decline to re-sign Finley, perhaps they'll give more serious consideration to Amaro, who thinks he's the best tight end in this year's draft class.
"I think if you think otherwise, you’re not really in it for the right reasons," said Amaro. "I’m coming in here knowing that I’m the best guy out here, and I’m the best available."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro by Brian Carriveau
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