To put into better perspective exactly how important 2013 second-round draft choice Gavin Escobar is to the Dallas Cowboys, consider this:
2014 second-round selection DeMarcus Lawrence enters this offseason with a rather large microscope hovering above his head. This is the pass-rusher out of Boise State that’s supposed to replace franchise sack leader DeMarcus Ware, who’s now poised to play in a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos.
In other words, second-round draft picks taken during the NFL Draft should be high priority talent. We can certainly debate the importance or wisdom of the Escobar selection all day long, but the former San Diego State tight end is in Dallas and he’s not going anywhere for some time—and does he really need to?
Perhaps Escobar is in the right spot.
Perennial starting tight end Jason Witten isn’t going to play forever, despite the fact that he’s still playing at an awfully high level at the age of 32. Witten figures to hold his current ranking for at least another year, but Escobar needs to become an instant replacement for Witten that already wears a blue star on his helmet. Until then, he needs to become a major contributor and frequent selection of quarterback Tony Romo.
The knock on Escobar coming out of college was that he was much more of a wide receiver and not much of a run blocker or pass protector. His rookie statistics certainly supported that perception as Escobar caught just nine passes.
It’s fair to point out that Escobar wasn’t on the field all the time as then-second year tight end James Hanna, a sixth-round pick in 2012, was able to contribute 12 catches on the same number of targets, 15.
One would think that the Dallas offense, a unit not likely to be supported by a shut-down defense, would have high incentive to make Escobar a true weapon in passing game coordinator Scott Linehan’s new offensive plans. Though Escobar’s total catches may not impress, he did catch two touchdown passes and definitely showed the ability to move the chains. His average catch went for just under 15 yards and his longest reception went for 25 yards.
Yes, the Cowboys need some more of this kind of thing out of Escobar.
Beyond a natural ability to catch passes, which Escobar certainly has, the second-year veteran needs to become a complete tight end; one who can pass-protect and offer some physicality in the running game.
Owner and general manger Jerry Jones knows that he has a good quarterback, at least when healthy. He knows that he’s got talent at running back and even more at wide receiver. An offensive line that looks rather young, strong and physical has to look pretty nice to Jones at this time.
If the Dallas offense can create a new dynamic duo at tight end, many ills that the defense will likely suffer could be all but cured. Escobar’s emergence might be the last thing standing between the Cowboys advancing to the playoffs and remaining in a perfect state of mediocrity.