'Tis the season for underclassmen to start talking about the NFL draft and their futures. Or tweeting, as it were.
Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro took to Twitter last week to implore fans to get out and cheer the Red Raiders in what might have been their last chance in Lubbock to see their star pass catcher.
If you have no other reason to go out to this game, come for our Seniors. Who knows, it might be my last game at the Jones too. #WreckKSU
— Jace Amaro (@J_ACER22) November 7, 2013
After the game, Amaro backtracked a bit.
Is this Jace Amaro's last game in Lubbock? "You know, I don't think so. I just love this place," he told TV after the game. — David Ubben (@davidubben) November 9, 2013
Perhaps it was because he didn't want to go out that way. He and the Red Raiders were crushed 49-26, and Amaro was held in check with only 67 yards on nine receptions. It was the first game since their opener against SMU in which Amaro had fewer than 86 receiving yards.
But that game and meager yards-per-catch average don't display the kind of field-stretching ability he has. Amaro had a four-game streak broken of at least one catch for 28 yards or longer, and ripped off a 47-yarder earlier in the season. He can hit the seam, despite being the Red Raiders' most dangerous receiving weapon and attracting the most attention from opposing defenses.
Amaro made Dr. Saturday's Midseason All-American Team and has a chance to be the first tight end drafted, if he comes out. North Carolina's Eric Ebron, whom we discussed in this space earlier this season, could push him for top honors at the position.
The tight end position for the 2014 class didn't appear too strong to start the season, but it could become quite good if Amaro declares.
The premature 2014 mock draft, picks 1-16 (order based on inverse of current power rankings)
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
Bridgewater might not be blowing minds the way some expected him to this season, but he has been consistently excellent most of the time. The Jaguars need someone with those career skills to join the team.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
South Carolina DE Jadevon Clowney
All depends on the coaching situation. A new coach might not love Mike Glennon as much as Greg Schiano does. Assuming Glennon builds on a solid rookie showing, then Clowney makes sense — if the Bucs think he can be a left end, or they are done with Adrian Clayborn, who might strictly be a right-side guy. The Bucs’ DL picks of late have been a mixed bag, but it would be hard to pass on Clowney and keep building a solid defense.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota
It’s just fun to think of the run-game and play-action possibilities with Mariota and Adrian Peterson in the same backfield.
4. Atlanta Falcons
UCLA OLB-DE Anthony Barr
A left tackle makes sense here, too, but the lack of defensive playmakers is starting to become alarming. Barr could be for the Falcons what Von Miller has been for the Denver Broncos.
5. Houston Texans
Texas A&M Johnny Manziel
Yeah, yeah, we can hear it now: NO FREAKIN WAY. Perhaps that’s true. But so many unknowns here: Is Case Keenum the guy? Is Gary Kubiak on the hot seat? Is there another player at this spot who would be a better fit? Will the Texans even end up in this range? When in doubt, pick Manziel. Yes, we know it’s a long shot. But it’s a fun shot for a local kid who could galvanize the fan base and the locker room, which is still studded with strong veterans who could keep Manziel in check. Now, please, don’t hit “send” on that hate mail.
6. New York Giants
Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews
A dream scenario: The Giants find their anchor left tackle to shore up a shaky unit.
7. St. Louis Rams (pick traded from Washington Redskins to Rams)
Michigan OT Taylor Lewan
Not hard to make this connection, given the Rams’ need for OT help, even if Lewan hasn’t quite dominated the way some speculated he might this season.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio
They desperately need a left tackle who can play, and play right away. Is that Kouandjio? His level of competition can’t hurt, even if he must develop more. And for what it’s worth, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert has drafted an SEC player in the first three rounds each of the past five drafts.
9. Oakland Raiders
Texas A&M WR Mike Evans
The Raiders have a few decent receivers, but no No. 1 guy. That would be Evans, should he land here.
10. Buffalo Bills
Alabama S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
A little iffy about this pick, but safety will be a position that undergoes some turnover for the Bills this offseason. If Jairus Byrd is moved, this might be a good landing spot for a team that seems to like SEC players and is seeking help in the secondary.
11. St. Louis Rams
Fresno State QB Derek Carr
If there’s a quarterback who could rise quickly in the draft season, it’s Carr. But a trade down could be an option here, too.
12. Tennessee Titans
Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
It would make sense for the Titans to move on from Kenny Britt now that he has been benched. Watkins would offer some great downfield ability to an offense needing more of that.
13. Miami Dolphins
Florida State OT Cameron Erving
What do you think, guys? Do they need help up front?
14. Baltimore Ravens
Alabama LB C.J. Mosley
Almost too easy to call in this situation. Daryl Smith has been a workhorse, but he’s turning 32 and is on a one-year deal. The team can upgrade over Jameel McClain, and Arthur Brown has yet to step out. Mosley is a great football player who could help out in a number of ways. This is what Ozzie Newsome does: Take good football players whom other teams inexplicably pass on.
15. Cleveland Browns
USC WR Marqise Lee
They will be itching to land a quarterback, and they’ll have the ammo to trade up for one if they want. But at this spot, given who we have going off the board so far, it wouldn’t be stunning to see them add a gifted receiver.
16. Green Bay Packers
Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III
A tight end can come later. The Packers see a dominant zero- or one-technique tackle and jump. The line could be thinned with the contracts of B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett up after this season. Nix’s teammate, Stephon Tuitt, is more of a 3-4 DE possibility, but he also could be in play here.
Penn State DT DaQuan Jones
It hasn’t been a happy season for the most part in Happy Valley with the Nittany Lions struggling to a 5-4 mark and a fourth-place standing in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten. But Bill O'Brien's team is not entirely devoid of talent, either.
Jones has been a steady performer whose stock is slowly on the rise. He might never be a great inside pass rusher, but his ability to absorb and shed double teams is attractive, and he’d be a nice fit in a 4-3 system in the pros.
His penetration ability, instincts and eye for the ball are strong, and at a position of need around the NFL, Jones could find himself landing in Rounds 2 or 3.
Florida CB Loucheiz Purifoy
It’s almost entirely not his fault, as the banged-up Gators secondary crumbles around him. Most UF opponents choose not to throw Purifoy’s direction, as he's clearly the best DB still standing, so it’s limiting his playmaking ability.
Once the scouts dig further into the tape, they’ll see he can cover well (Missouri barely tested him), and even blitz, as he’s shown in the Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas games.
Purifoy is a good football player whose stock and buzz might be waning a bit after a lot of preseason hype, but look for him to receive early consideration once draft season rolls around and he backs up his athleticism with workouts for NFL teams. His stock should not fall that far.
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