2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Syracuse WR Amba Etta-Tawo

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Amba Etta-Tawo/WR Syracuse – 6’1/2 198

The Good

– NFL size with good length (32 inch arms)
– Shows ability to catch ball away from his frame, solid catch radius
– Big play maker vertically who tracks the ball well, times his jumps, and shows vertical to win 50/50 balls, willing to be physical and fight for the ball
– Technical route runner vertically with the ability to stack the CB and use frame to box out
– Shows surprising burst and ability to separate at the top of his route
– Size can make it tough for smaller DBs to bring him down, fights and gets extra yardage, and has YAC ability overall
– Able to beat press coverage, strong hands and good acceleration once he gets upfield
– Picked up new system quickly in 2016 and flourished, evidence of a good football IQ and work ethic

The Bad

– Small hands, especially relative to height (9 1/4 inches)
– Inconsistent hands and too many drops, doesn’t really body catch, just seems to lose focus
– Allowed to play in space as X receiver in college, often isolated, will have to learn to play in traffic in NFL
– Has to be more detailed, avoid stacking bad plays, and work back to the football underneath
– Lankier frame and long lower half will make it a challenge for him to sink and separate against quicker CBs on underneath routes
– Lacks long, top end speed, wins with stride length, not actual speed
– Only one year of serious production


– 2016 was first year as starter and first year with Syracuse
– Graduate transfer from Maryland
– 15 game starter in three years with the Terps, caught 61 passes for 938 yards and three TDs
– 2016 with Syracuse: 94 receptions, 1482 yards 14 TDs
– Older brother briefly played football with Clemson before being forced to retire due to a heart condition

Tape Breakdown

Amba Etta-Tawo was a guy I was hoping to be one of my sleepers. While I still have hope, a poor Senior Bowl performance muddied my expectations. But first, the good, and let’s talk about where he wins.

I bet every scout and every report will say the same thing. He wins vertically. Averaging nearly 16 yards per catch last season is a testament. He’s a long strider, a build-up speed guy, who also plays with good technique.

Love this route here. Stem to the outside with burst to beat the corner in press alignment, stack on top of him vertically, and track the ball to adjust and snag it away from his body.

His lanky frame makes it tough for him to be brought down and overall, he plays with plus physicality. Safety bounces off of him on this post and he runs into the end zone.

As the isolated X receiver to the backside, seeing a lot of man/solo coverage, so he’s experiencing in beating press ad does a nice job of it. Has a plan and shows strong hands with some burst once he gets leverage and is able to run upfield. He isn’t always the quickest at shaking free laterally though because of his long stride length.

And hey, you have to give the guy credit for being such an important, immediate force the Orange. Stepped right in and had one of the most productive seasons of any wide receiver in college football. That isn’t easy and it wasn’t like he was playing for the league’s most explosive offense (90th in points per game).

While he shows the ability to catch away from his frame, he had a heck of a time down in Mobile. Dropped more passes than probably any receiver down there, though I did hear a rumor he had a broken pinky. But the drops showed up on tape too, and not just the occasional “meh” drop every receiver is going to have, especially ones targeted as often as him. Some bad, unfocused ones like this would-be touchdown against UConn.

I do like the burst he has but in the short and intermediate routes, he does have trouble sinking his hips and creating space. That’s not where he wins. Where he wins is vertically. It’s a little similar to Chris Moore, a slowish but big play maker drafted in the 5th round a year ago by the Baltimore Ravens. But I liked Moore, uh, more, because he had better body control and was a more fluid receiver.

I do like Etta-Tawo more than the WR we profiled two days ago, Fred Ross, as a better YAC and vertical threat who shows the ability to separate better overall.

That deep threat ability for Pittsburgh is intriguing and something they value but he’s not a unique enough athlete for me to think they’ll pay much attention to him in the pre-draft process.

Projection: Late Day Three (6th Round)

Games Watched: at UConn, vs Notre Dame, vs Louisville, vs South Florida, Senior Bowl

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek Barnett

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Steelers12

    never saw much of him but if we draft him i wont complain with our history of developing WRs

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    True, but I don’t want another WR with a case of the Sweeds. Coates last season (though admittedly with broken fingers) and Wheaton have already made me gun-shy. I’ll take a raw talent with a knack for coming up with the football – but lacking in his route tree – over someone with small hands any day.

  • Disqussant

    Let’s also make sure the kid doesn’t do drugs. Doesn’t matter how good he is if he can’t play.

  • Alex Kozora

    I don’t think that’s an issue.

  • Steelers12

    any ideas who fit what you want?

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    Honestly, I haven’t done the research to put out a name. I’ve been following these draft player profiles closely, and none of the WRs has jumped out at me as a good target yet. I’m perfectly content to roll with Brown/Bryant/Coates/DHB/Ayers/Rogers/Hamilton. I’ve seen enough from that young core of WRs to be optimistic about their chances this season. That said, I wouldn’t mind the Steelers taking a flyer on a sure-handed WR later in the draft.

  • Steelers12

    yeah i gotcha you want a possession receiver instead of just speed guys with questionable hands

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    Exactly. I’d be ok with a tall outside receiver who high-points the ball and comes down with it more often than not, but I think we have that in Bryant, assuming he’s reinstated and stays clean.

  • popsiclesticks

    Either of you guys look at KD Cannon? He may not fit that description but I like him and to me, he IS Mike Wallace but more physical and probably slightly better ball skills (but then again who doesn’t have better ball skills than Wallace?). If he’s around in the 5th or so, that’s my guy.

  • Steelers12

    that is a big assumption which is why i understand why they are looking at WRs, Brandon Marshall if released and Pierre Garcon fits that bill as well

  • Disqussant

    Didn’t mean for it to sound like this kid in particular, I just mean character is something that has to be seriously considered in every pick going forward. Again, not like the Steelers don’t consider it, but…. just feel like there’s a character gap in the locker room this past year. It would be nice if they could quietly draft some character leadership.

  • Steelers12

    yeah i put on here all the time he is my favorite WR in this draft and like you said he can probably be had on day 3 so great value

  • Spencer Krick

    I like this guy as a late rounder. Stretching the field vertically was sorely missed with Coates on the bench.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    You’re not going to get a complete player that far into the draft. I’m not for or against the guy. He seemed to bog down in the first gif when juking the db and taking a bit of time to get up to speed. He’d have to have + hands for me to consider him.

  • LucasY59

    I think Mack Hollins could be the Bryant/Coates/DHB for the Steelers in this draft (but will be a much later pick maybe even undrafted since he was injured during the season) should have good speed, has good size and is a ST contributor like DHB and Coates

  • Steelers12

    you like KD Cannon?

  • LucasY59

    I think he could be good, but is definitely a niche player, and if Bryant returns or Coates returns to his early last season form he would never get any snaps (or even make the roster…)

    I think Hollins could be a guy they could stash on the PS this yr and have for the future since after this season Bryant and Coates wil both be entering thier final yr of the rookie contract and likely one of them will be gone (could be both) it is more than a yr away before they have to worry about it, but if they can get a guy late to develop I would definitely think it was a good idea (if Cannon is a late pick/UDFA I think he could be a good add as well, but would wait till the 6th or later for sure)