For Texas Tech NFL draftniks, all of the suspense will be early and late. There is one Red Raider with first round potential and four others who could go in the sixth or seventh round, but nary a Red Raider is likely to go in the third, fourth or fifth.
The greatest drama revolves around dynamic tight end Jace Amaro. And frankly, there is no consensus on exactly when he will be selected. In a best-case scenario Amaro goes late in the first round, although anywhere in the second round would not be a surprise. There is a remote chance he could slip into the early third round, but if that happened, it would be one of the bigger surprises of the draft.
Regardless of where Amaro lands, some NFL team will be getting a unique athlete and a terrific offensive weapon. Everybody loves his size/speed combination. Amaro is a prototype 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, and runs the forty in 4.7.
And everybody loves Amaro's productivity. In 2013 he set an FBS record for receiving yards by a tight end. Clearly, Amaro can get downfield in a hurry, make himself available to the quarterback, and bring the ball in when it is delivered to him. As a receiving tight end, there may not be a better prospect in this year's draft.
But what may surprise some people is Amaro's blocking ability. He has gotten a bit of a label as a finesse player, but that appellation is inaccurate. Amaro is capable of holding his own against NFL defensive ends, and will prove more than a match for the vast majority of linebackers and defensive backs he sees. Texas Tech has long done a great job of schooling its receivers in downfield blocking, and Amaro is a classic example.
Outside of Amaro, no Red Raider is a lock to be taken in the draft, but then again, Eric Ward, Terrance Bullitt, Will Smith and Kerry Hyder could all go in the sixth or seventh round.
After Amaro, Ward is Tech's best offensive prospect. Few receivers on the board are as physical as the 5-foot-11 200 pounder from Wichita Falls. Ward is a true mauler among receivers, much in the mold of another Ward, Hines. Additionally, Ward has sterling hands. If he so much as gets one hand on a ball that is thrown off target, there is a very good chance Ward will bring it in. He is also extremely acrobatic and capable of making spectacular grabs in the air.
Ward's chief drawback is a lack of speed and ability to separate. Much like another great Tech receiver, Darrin Moore, Ward defeats defenders with positioning and physicality alone. Ward will not run away from any NFL cornerback.
The premier Tech prospect on the defensive side of the ball is probably defensive lineman Kerry Hyder. He checks in at 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, but frankly, plays smaller than that, which is not necessarily a bad thing. He is an active lineman who plays with good effort and is speedy and athletic enough to make plays all over the field. Hyder has good explosion off of the snap, and anchors reasonably well against the run.
Hyder is not, however, particularly strong for a defensive lineman, and may actually need to shed 10 pounds and play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He is not a good fit for a three-man defensive line.
Terrance Bullitt, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 230, projects as an outside linebacker at the next level. Bullitt is a bit of a mystery for the simple reason that he couldn't stay healthy while at Tech—the propensity to injury does his draft stock no favors either. But on those rare occasions when Bullitt was healthy, he was a difference-maker.
Bullitt runs well, makes plays in space, is capable of covering, and is tough as nails. He's also a good locker-room presence who adds positive intangibles to whatever team he's on.
The final Red Raider who's getting a serious look from NFL execs is outside linebacker Will Smith. He was serviceable his first season out of the JUCO ranks, but like many JUCO transfers, really made his mark as a senior.
In Smith's final year he became a bit of a play-maker and was certainly very productive. In addition to being fast for a 230-pounder, Smith plays with a bit of an edge, and has a good football IQ, which will help him assimilate whatever scheme he's in at the next level.
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