Bowl season is currently at its peak, and numerous NFL hopefuls are performing in their final collegiate auditions in the hopes of impressing the pro level.
For players with already-cemented draft stock—for better or worse—it may prove to be an exercise in futility. For others, a bad performance is not the end of the world, as countless interviews and workouts are sure to come.
Those players who set themselves apart in big games give themselves a leg up on the competition both at their positions and overall. The gap may mean the difference between rounds or a position within a round, which may translate to millions won or lost in the process.
Here are several names who have created nice advantages for themselves heading into the tedious draft process.
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Get to know the name Jace Amaro—he is the next superstar tight end at the pro level.
Amaro still ranks behind North Carolina's Eric Ebron in the minds of many, including the experts over at CBS Sports. But Amaro's performance in the Holiday Bowl as Texas Tech upset No. 14 Arizona State was one for the ages.
In the 37-23 outcome, Amaro was the team's leading receiver with eight receptions for 112 yards. As Texas Tech associate director of communications Scott Lacefield details, Amaro shattered an NCAA record:
#TexasTech TE Jace Amaro now has 1,334 receiving yards this season - breaks NCAA record by a TE (Rice's James Casey (1,329 in 2008)— Scott Lacefield (@ScottLacefield) December 31, 2013
Shortly after, Amaro declared his intention to turn pro, per Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:
Jace Amaro on declaring for the draft: "It was a hard decision, because I love these guys and they mean the world to me and of course ...— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) December 31, 2013
At 6'5" and 260 pounds, Amaro is a nightmare for linebackers and defensive backs. This is best summarized by Fox Sports' David Ubben:
Have never heard coaches around the Big 12 talk about a player with more reverence than they do Jace Amaro. He's the real deal.— David Ubben (@davidubben) December 31, 2013
Amaro took care of business in a big way during the final game of his collegiate career, and it will pay dividends in his pursuit to be the top tight end off the board.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
UCLA Bruins sophomore quarterback Brett Hundley is quite the polarizing prospect in most circles. The general consensus seems to be that Hundley is a prospect with a nearly unlimited ceiling who is in need of more development.
But it is hard to ignore what Hundley was able to do in UCLA's 42-12 domination over Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl. The 6'3" 222-pound signal-caller threw for 226 yards and two scores. He was also the team's leading rusher with 161 yards and two scores.
Hundley's epic performance did not lack for highlights, as shown by his 86-yard touchdown in the second quarter:
Despite the performance, Hundley has yet to make a decision on his future:
As NFL.com's Dan Greenspan details, Hundley showed the tools in the Sun Bowl that would put him in the conversation for all teams in need of a new player under center:
Sturdy enough to handle contact, elusive enough to rip off an 86-yard touchdown run against the always stout Hokies defense, and strong enough to make any throw, Hundley has the type of skill set that would make it difficult for NFL teams to pass up should he declare for the 2014 draft.
Hundley's stock may never be higher than after his electric showing in the Sun Bowl.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
In what may have been Johnny Football's final collegiate game, Manziel led the No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies over the No. 24 Duke Blue Devils 52-48 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl while recording what may have been the best game of his career:
Johnny Manziel: 1st career game with 300+ passing yards, 4 TD & 0 INT— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 1, 2014
Manziel threw for 382 yards and four scores. Like Hundley, he also led the team in rushing, with 73 yards and a score.
Most impressive of all, Manziel did this in a shootout while his defense allowed 661 yards of total offense and his team was in the hole with a 38-17 halftime deficit.
The praise for Manziel rang down from all angles, but Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith and CBS Sports' Dane Brugler summarized the overall vibe best:
If you're an NFL coach and Johnny Football isn't a fit for your offense, change your offense.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) January 1, 2014
Text from NFL scout buddy on Manziel: "His doubters are gonna be shocked at how high this kid goes." #NFLDraft— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 1, 2014
At 6'1" and 210 pounds, Manziel has been a statistical monster and has earned plenty of accolades in the past two years, including being the first freshman to ever win the Heisman Trophy. But Manziel has found it difficult to win the hearts and minds of scouts. (CBS Sports prefers Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr, for example).
As NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah and Rotoworld's Josh Norris share, Manziel's best traits were once again on display in the Chick-fil-A Bowl:
Improvisational skill reminds me of Romo RT @MoveTheSticks: Studied Manziel today... Escapability vs free rushers is the best I've ever seen— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) December 31, 2013
Should Manziel declare, he did help his draft stock with a big performance under the national microscope.