Last May, the Dallas Cowboys decided to join the “Former Basketball-Player Tight End Club” when they selected Gavin Escobar out of San Diego State with the 47th pick. The selection raised many eyebrows, and a year later, many are still not sure what will come of the pick.
As a college player, Escobar’s numbers did not progress steadily over the years. His best season came as a redshirt sophomore when he caught 51 passes for 750 yards and seven touchdowns. Deciding to enter the draft after his junior season, a slightly less productive campaign, the former “Aztec Warrior” still drew high praise.
He was a top performer among Tight Ends at the combine, though opted not to lift. At his pro day, he only put up 12 reps on bench press, placing him way behind fellow prospects Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz that completed 22 and 24, respectively. Still, Escobar’s athleticism shone brightly, and on tape, his hands stole the show. In assessing the surprise pick by Dallas, draft analyst Mike Mayock had this to say:
“Maybe the best ball skills of any of them. This kid’s got great ball skills. He’s a gifted hands catcher. He will be a great short and intermediate catcher for the Dallas Cowboys.”
Jonathan Bales of Bleacher Report similarly predicted that Escobar’s primary role would be as a red-zone threat, pointing out that at San Diego State, the Tight End converted 13.9% of his receptions into touchdowns. Sure enough, as a Cowboy, 2 of Escobar’s 9 receptions went for Touchdowns (22%). Originally thought to be played in a two Tight End set with Jason Witten, #89 became more of a situational player, owed perhaps to his still-developing blocking abilities.
Alas, just as Escobar was feeling like a second-round reach, the then-22 year old made an electrifying play in Week 17 which excited the fanbase. During the second-quarter, Kyle Orton passed the ball to #89 about ten-yards out from the end-zone. Escobar then showcased serious athleticism by sprinting and flipping over Eagles Safety Nate Allen for a touchdown (pictured above). While only one play, fans finally saw the abilities that scouts and coaches had been raving about.
In 2014, Escobar can do nothing but work hard, as it is up to Scott Linehan, Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones, Rowdy the Cowboys, and whoever else is calling plays in Dallas to get the young man some playing time. There is no doubt he need to get stronger, but foremost is preserving the play-making ability that got him drafted. If the coaches can figure out the best way to get Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, and the equally athletic James Hanna involved, the Dallas Cowboys will have the offense for which they have been searching.