After following the Cowboys for years and spending many hours a week watching tape and writing about the team, I feel as if I am beginning to get a pretty good understanding of each player on the roster. I know their strengths, weakness, and future upside. And for the most part, I have a solid opinion on each and every player on the roster. But Gavin Escobar intrigues me and many fellow Cowboy supporters. The Cowboys used a valuable second round pick on a player who is now backing up a future Hall of Famer and only caught nine passes all year. Should this discourage you or did you see anything in 2013 that gives you hope?
As I like to do with any prospect before I scout him, I like to see how he measures out physically when compared to some of his peers so that I have some idea of what to expect. Here is a list of current NFL tight ends who physically compare to Gavin Escobar:
Out of that group, Escobar reminds me the most of Kyle Rudolph in terms of play-style. But as you can see, Escobar isn’t going to run away from many defenders, but what he can do is beat you with his size and I will show you how he does that. What I have noticed about Escobar is that he is such a natural receiver when thrown to. He makes plays on the ball as if he is a wide receiver. Take a quick look at some of these catches:
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Every year, especially during the NFL Draft season, we hear about tight ends as players who can create mismatches. And the bottom two plays are a perfect example of that. Both times, you couldn’t ask the defender to play better defense (and in fact, in the bottom right corner, the defender is actually holding with his right arm).This was the play that Escobar had the most success with in 2013. The Cowboys ran this play (or a slight variation of it) three different times and all three passes resulted into big gains for Escobar.
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Escobar is just too talented for a linebacker in one-on-one coverage because he is also deceivingly quick and a savvy route runner. Once he crossed the face of his defender, it was then just an easy throw over the top of the linebacker for big gain to Escobar down the seam. What Escobar won’t do is make spectacular runs after the catch and make you miss, but he can get open. Sounds like a younger version of Jason Witten doesn’t it?
But there is another dimension to being a good tight end besides just catching the ball and obviously that is the blocking aspect of football. Now, it needs to be said that Gavin Escobar wasn’t drafted to be a blocker. In fact, if he would’ve been a better blocker in college, there would have been a really good chance that he would have landed in the first round of the NFL Draft. And when I first saw Escobar block in training camp and in preseason, he was an absolute disaster. But he came a long way with his blocking in one season. He will never be great blocking tight end or never will he be as good of a blocker as Martellus Bennett was, but he has improved. Let me show you an example:
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Now, it would be easy for me to pick any arbitrary blocking play from Escobar and show you one where he succeeds. But can you remember Escobar being beat on a run so badly that it blew up the play or had a significant impact on the game? I can’t and I re-watched every snap he played. Anyways, back to the play. On this play, the Cowboys asked Escobar to block linebacker Junior Gallette in space and he held up fine. Escobar has learned how to at least, get in the way long enough for other players to help him out. Escobar blocks Gallette just long enough before H-back James Hanna comes to help seal the edge for DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys will live with this kind of blocking every play from Escobar.
I know Gavin Escobar only had nine catches and to the average fan or observer, it’s easy to call him a disappointment. But I actually go the other way; Gavin Escobar showed me enough in 2013 to eventually replace Jason Witten. The natural ball skills he possesses and overall receiving ability should help the Cowboys make transition from Witten to Escobar within the next few years. The people who hated the Escobar pick will dismiss this article and his limited action in 2013. But don’t be surprised if Gavin makes the biggest leap from 2013 to 2014 of any Dallas Cowboy.