I know this will come as a shock to pretty much everybody, but New York Jets pass catchers had a rough year in 2013. Santonio Holmes dealt with nagging injuries, Stephen Hill took up residence in Rex Ryan's doghouse, and Kellen Winslow couldn't find a Boston Market to save his life. Things have been better for Gang Green.
The objective seemed obvious at the end of the season with Holmes and Winslow on the free agent market: get Geno Smith some weapons. They signed Eric Decker and Chris Johnson, but that pretty clearly isn't enough for a team so lacking in offensive difference-makers. Enter rookie tight end Jace Amaro.
Amaro is a decent little toy for Geno to play with. The Jets picked this 6'5", 260 pounds of glory in the second round after fellow tight ends Eric Ebron and Austin Seferian-Jenkins went earlier to the Lions and Buccaneers respectively. But don't let the fact that Amaro was just the third tight end off the board fool you: dude put up stupid numbers in college.
Kliff Kingsbury: Miracle Worker
In his first two seasons with Texas Tech, Amaro combined to record 32 receptions for 466 yards and 6 touchdowns. That's not exactly the formula for a second-round stud muffin. Kliff Kingsbury changed that in a hurry.
When Kingsbury came over from being the offensive coordinator for some bro named Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, he brought with him a gun-slingin' offense that is conducive to silly stats. In Kingsbury's first season at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders attempted 714 passes for 5,107 yards, both of which were second most in the nation. As you probably guessed, Amaro's production followed this same trajectory.
In 2013, Amaro led the team with 106 receptions for 1,352 yards (104.0 yards per game) while catching 7 touchdowns. Yummy. That was 44 receptions, 379 yards and 4 touchdowns more than Ebron. Although Seferian-Jenkins had one more touchdown than Amaro, he had 70 fewer receptions for 902 fewer yards. That's a minor difference.
Throughout the draft process, the question everybody was asking about Amaro was whether or not he was a product of the system in which he played. That is definitely a valid question, so let's use one of numberFire's cooler tools, READ, to see what Amaro could do in the NFL.
What is READ? It's a series of algorithms that look at a player's measurables and performance at the combine to find comparable NFL players during their rookie seasons. After it does that, READ adds in the effectiveness of the offense in which the player is stepping in to. In Amaro's case, this hurts him because, like you probably could have guessed, the Jets' passing offense was beyond dysfunctional last year. Finally, READ removes any comparables that were "false positives" to get the top 20 players in similar situations during their rookie season. Here's a look at the top eight comps for Amaro.
Both McMichael and Carlson finished their rookie campaigns in the top 10 in fantasy points from tight ends, and Finley did so in his second year after only recording six receptions as a rookie. These comparisons seem to indicate that Amaro is more than just a "system" guy, but not a Rob-Gronkowski-esque athletic freakshow.
What does this mean for Amaro's fantasy impact? Well, he's probably not a guy I'd draft in a non-dynasty league. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't keep tabs on him early on to see if he's worthy of a waiver wire pickup.
Amaro's Impact on the Jets
The real impact for Amaro will most likely be on the real-football side of things as opposed to fantasy. If he can pump out production anywhere near his college stats, Marty Mornhinweg will be doing cartwheels (and wouldn't we all like to see that?).
If we look solely at Amaro's statistics on third down last year, he would have had the second most receiving yards on the entire Jets roster - Amaro led the nation with 35 receptions last year for 478 yards on third down. The next highest tight end in third down receptions was Virginia's Jake McGee at 17 receptions, the 45th highest total in the nation. For third down yardage, Michigan's Devin Funchess was the second highest tight end at 254 yards, the 50th highest total in the nation. Amaro went HAM.
Jeremy Kerley was Geno's top target on third down last year, notching 21 receptions for 274 yards. Winslow and Jeff Cumberland combined for only 11 receptions in that situation. Amaro, along with Decker, provides Geno with an outlet under duress when he needs it most.
In addition to that, Amaro is an obvious improvement in the red zone. He finished seventh in the nation in red zone receptions last year with 14. He was one of only three tight ends with double-digit receptions in the red zone, Seferian-Jenkins and Marshall's Gator Hoskins being the others. Dude's 6'5" - he'll help. When you add in the fact that Jets receivers in total only had 21 red zone receptions last year, the need for a big-bodied ball of beauty is even more obvious.
This isn't to over-state Amaro's value. The man fell to the second round for a reason, and he's playing on a team where the quarterback situation is less than ideal. But it's a move the Jets had to make, and it makes them immediately better in an area where they were objectively poopy at best last year.