Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
The Pewter Plank recently posted our review of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers contributions from the tight end position in 2012, and we pointed out that there was a distinct difference between the tight ends on the roster this past season. Luke Stocker and Nate Byham were both bruising blockers, contributing mostly by paving the way for the running of Doug Martin. Dallas Clark was the primary receiving tight end, failing to contribute to the blocking schemes, and instead adding a moderate amount of production as a pass receiver. With Clark aging and out of contract, it’s obvious that the Buccaneers will need a replacement for him, and it needs to be someone suited to his role in the offense. A tight end with reliable hands who can run good routes and provide a short to intermediate option for Josh Freeman.
That’s where Gavin Escobar is at his best.
The San Diego State prospect is a massive human being, measuring 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighing 254 pounds. He’s got long arms, big hands, and a solidly built frame, but doesn’t look awkward or uncoordinated considering his size. He’s certainly not the fastest player, even at his position, clocking in at 4.84 seconds in the 40 yard dash at the NFL Draft Scouting Combine. What he lacks in straight line speed, he more than makes up for in agility and change-of-direction, posting solid times in the 3-cone drill and 20-yard-shuttle. This means that Escobar has the natural ability to make cuts while running patterns and beat defenders by breaking hard to the football on timing routes. He combines this agility with amazing hands, snatching the ball out of the air with ease with his big hands. He impressed while running “The Gauntlet” drill at the combine, where he runs in a straight line and receives passes from all directions. He caught every pass in stride and used his hands to secure the ball away from his body and bring the ball in naturally. So Escobar proved at the combine what we already knew about him, he’s a big target that runs good routes and has incredible hands.
Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Escobar was one of the best tight ends in the nation in 2012, hauling in 42 catches for 543 yards and 6 scores. He was a semifinalist for the Mackey Award (given to the nation’s best tight end), and first-team All-Conference in the Mountain West. He had an even more impressive 2011, including a two score game against Boise State. The decline in productivity is likely due to a drop in quarterback performance, as 2011 signal caller Ryan Lindley moved on to the NFL.
The knock on Escobar, aside from lacking in timed speed, is his inability to be a full-time blocker. Gavin was mainly used as a slot receiver at SDSU, providing a big target for his quarterback, and not often kept in to block for runners. He is somewhat capable of blocking, according to his CBSSports Draft Profile. This concern won’t be as big of an issue for the Buccaneers, who already have solid blocking tight ends. Escobar could play in passing situations more often than not, or line up as a slot receiver with Luke Stocker playing on the line. He could be called upon to block when needed, but he would not need to be a key part of the run blocking efforts for the Buccaneers. The other concern listed on his draft profile is his tendency to get pushed off his route at the line, but that this is something he’s been improving upon. Escobar will likely face tougher competition in the NFL when it comes to getting off the line and getting into his route, so this is something that teams must look at carefully when evaluating Gavin.
Overall, I believe that Escobar would fit perfectly in the offensive role left vacant by Dallas Clark. A taller receiver with soft hands would be a great target for Josh Freeman, who prefers to throw passes higher and allow his receivers to go up and get them. Escobar will be available on the second day of the draft, between rounds two and three, and I think the Buccaneers should definitely target him after addressing defensive back and defensive line needs at the 2013 NFL Draft.