Surprise! TE Geoff Swaim Looks like a Good Pick


When the Dallas Cowboys traded back into the draft to select TE Geoff Swaim, many of us were left scratching our heads. Here’s a TE from Texas, that many have never even heard of, being drafted at a position that is very unlikely to have an opening in 2015. Jason Witten, Gavin Escobar, and James Hanna are virtual locks, and since the Cowboys are very unlikely to carry a fourth TE, this looked like a wasted pick.

Even UT fans were wondering what the rational is for selecting this “blocking” TE at a position of strength for the Cowboys. If you’re anything like me, you went scrambling for scouting reports, highlight clips, and about anything you can get your hands on to figure out why this move was made. Initial reactions everywhere followed the narrative, “A one-dimensional blocking TE, rarely used in passing game, limited upside.”

Can I get a “Yippee?”

There had to more to this story. We know James Hanna, our 2nd best TE, is set to be a free agent after this season. We know the Cowboys like to save money wherever possible, and are therefore very unlikely to invest much to retain him. But that’s a year away and there currently isn’t a roster spot on the 53 for a one-dimensional TE who figures to contribute nothing until next year.

So what gives?

To call Geoff Swaim one-dimensional (Like I first foolishly did) is a mistake. Geoff Swaim is pretty far from a plodding inline TE who helps the running game. He’s more. Much more. Just like most of the Dallas Cowboys’ picks in recent years.

Geoff Swaim is predominantly a blocking TE, yes. He only caught 13 passes, it’s hard to argue against the raw numbers. But the raw numbers seem to have led us astray and brought on lazy assumptions in the process.

After watching the Cowboys’ rookie mini-camp where their drafted and undrafted rookies competed against each other in various drills, I came away pleasantly surprised and very intrigued. Geoff Swaim can catch! Geoff Swaim is very athletic! Geoff Swaim is a good player!

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In passing drills Geoff Swaim had good movement out of his stance and off the line. He did have an initial slight “short-step” when coming out of his stance. It’s not as bad as many TEs, but it’s still wasted motion that should/can be corrected. But his movement downfield, his speed, and his ability to use his body was startlingly impressive.

Looking back at UT film, it’s hard to find good examples of him using this downfield pass-catching athleticism. But to see him in minicamp, at the very least proved he has the ability to be a target if asked. Also shown is his ability to play the long-sought-after role of H-back.

And that’s where the versatility really comes into play.

Different teams will define the H-back differently based on their schemes, but in a nutshell, the H-back is versatile TE who can line up on the line, off the line, in the backfield, and in motion. The motion part is especially important as the H-back will be handling traditional FB duties as well as neutralizing edge rushers (both often on the move).

The H-back is essentially a TE/FB hybrid.  The Cowboys have somewhat unsuccessfully tinkered with the H-back for years as they try to phase out the FB. They’ve recently used James Hanna there fairly often, and while Hanna has been fine, he hasn’t been great when blocking out of the backfield.

If Geoff Swaim can prove to be a dependable H-back, the Cowboys could afford to keep him on the roster at the expense of the fullback. Provided he can play special teams, the Cowboys could then easily justify four TEs as long as Swaim could be that true H-back they’ve been looking for.

Geoff Swaim has the versatility to play both a traditional TE as well as an H-back. He has the speed and athleticism to be a mild threat as a pass-catcher, and the hardworking attitude desired on special teams. He once looked like a surefire camp casualty, but he’s looking more and more like he has a chance.

Geoff Swaim may just be a good pick after all.

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