Gavin Escobar looking good

February 8th, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

Very quietly, this is developing into a very strong year for tight ends. Certainly the strongest we’ve seen for a while. Maybe it’s just the current penchant for big, athletic difference makers, but there seems to be a few of those types this year.

While Zach Ertz and Tyler Eifert have received most of the focus, others are starting to get some attention. Florida’s Jordan Reed has unnatural speed for his size, good hands and will create mismatches for slot corners, linebackers and safety’s. I’m looking forward to watching Cincinnati’s Travis Kelce over the next couple of weeks, while Rice’s Vance McDonald is being tipped for a big combine.

There are others who will go a little later that could have some impact at the next level such as UCLA’s Joseph Fauria, Michigan State’s Dion Sims, Tennessee’s Mychal Rivera and Stanford’s massive 6-8, 263lbs Levine Toilolo.

One player who could force his way into first round contention is San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar. He’s listed at 6-5 and 255lbs. The tape above (vs Boise State) from Aaron Aloysius is the first full look we’ve been given. It’s never ideal to make snap judgements on one game — however — it’s hard not to be impressed.

Blocking isn’t a major strong point for Escobar, but you’re drafting this guy for his receiving talents and his ability to create problems at the second level. In the tape above he appears to have soft hands and an ability to not only high point catches, but also make difficult grabs. It looks like he can create separation and find soft spots in the coverage. And he has the size and mobility to be a Kellen Winslow type at the next level.

Not long ago former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli listed Escobar as his 10th best underclassmen in the 2013 draft.

“Three-year starter who was hampered this season by a knee injury that he played through. Good height-weight-speed prospect at 6-6 and 255 who right now is more receiver than blocker. I’m high on his ability to produce as an offensive tight end right now in the more wide-open NFL offenses. He’s what we call an “F-type” tight end, a receiver who can play off the line probably more productively than as a blocker right now.”

If you’re wondering what a ‘F-type’ tight end is, it’s another way of saying H-back. Basically they line up just off the line, technically in the backfield and normally as the second tight end in a 2TE set. Norv Turner is the most recent coach to use a lot of this in his schemes, but Joe Gibbs is often credited with being the inventor of this particular wrinkle.

To break it down you’re asking a H or F back to run receiver routes in multiple sets while still incorporating blocking responsibilities on certain calls. The way the game has changed and moved more towards passing, the role of the orthodox tight end has shifted towards more of these H/F back types anyway. However, as we’ve seen with Zach Miller in Seattle, teams that are run-centric still ask their tight ends to do a lot of blocking.

When the Seahawks brought in Kellen Winslow it looked to be a way of getting a productive, bigger receiver on the field rather than a pure second tight end. Obviously he didn’t make the cut and Anthony McCoy in my view did enough as the #2 to warrant some faith. However, with the team still lacking a big target for Russell Wilson outside of Miller and 6-4-but-skinny Sidney Rice, they could look at one of these ‘joker’ tight ends that can act predominantly as a receiver. McCoy would still have a role, but you’re opening up the play book. More 2TE sets, sometimes putting three big targets on the field for Wilson. New England made multiple tight end sets feasible. It’s not a bad lead to follow.

Gavin Escobar might not be the most talked about player but his potential as a receiver is clear. San Diego State were run-focused in 2012 so he didn’t make many big, highlight reel plays or generate fantastic production. At the next level, with a quarterback like Wilson, he could be the league’s next intriguing game changing tight end. If you’re looking for the next Jimmy Graham, this guy has as good a chance as anyone.

The only question is whether the Seahawks would consider making such a pick at #25. Because it’s unlikely he’ll last until #56. During our coverage this year there’s been some interest in Zach Ertz, so why not Escobar? It could be argued Escobar possibly has a higher upside, but Ertz is the more natural receiver and already looks accomplished running different routes and acting as the main focus of a passing game. Daniel Jeremiah mocked receiver Keenan Allen to the Seahawks today. He too is pretty under-developed given the weak passing game at California and the restrictions it placed on the skill players. Escobar is no different really, but again might have better upside.

Have a look at the tape and let us know what you think. I’d also recommend checking out this detail-filled piece on tight ends by Danny Kelly, published today. It’s an incredible read.

58 Responses to “Gavin Escobar looking good”

  1. AndrewP says:

    Honestly, I’d be thrilled with any of Ertz/Reed/Escobar/Fauria as I think they are exactly what the Hawks need: A nimble, big-bodied receiving-first TE with solid hands and thus creates match-ups nightmares for opposing D-Coordinators.

    The more I read about this draft, the more excited I get, as I think it matches up PERFECTLY with what the Hawks need:

    1) Aforesaid TE
    2) DLine difference makers (and depth)
    3) Solid WIL
    4) Sure-handed, solid-route running WRs

  2. MJ says:

    I like Escobar more than Eifert and realistically I don’t think he gets out of the top 40. He’s a great receiving TE and has really nice agility too. I think he’s a much better option than Jordan Reed because GE can grow into an all around TE.

  3. Tarry says:

    With the failed experiments in Winslow and Moore, it is an obvious need/want by FO. How big of a need and whether they will spend a 1st round pick over say DT, DE, WR or OLB is the big question. I do like the tape on this post.

  4. SunPathPaul says:

    It is seeming like the best way to get the cream of the crop here, is to somehow swap picks in round 2 and 3… If we package Flynn to move up, maybe add Leon if needed, we can get these guys we want earlier in those rounds upping our chances of adding the best players for our Seahawks!

    Still seems that if any of the early picking teams, that need QB’s and a LOT of other help, would welcome a Flynn into their mix with 2 added late round picks just to SWAP say 2nd and 3rd’s, or 2nd and 4th’s??

    Feasible Rob? We know Flynn prob won’t equal just a straight 2nd or 3rd honestly, so why not bundle a few of our extra late rounders to move up in 2 and 3, or 2 and 4?

    This is my logic for maybe the easiest way to trade Flynn and SELL it to another needy team…

    • Rob Staton says:

      I don’t think it’s feasible. There’s no real precedent for trades like this and it’d be a substantial leap of faith on the other teams behalf.

  5. Turp says:

    Rob,

    How would you compare FA Jared Cook to this crop of TE’s? I haven’t watched a lot of tape on him, so I’m not sure if he fits the “Y” or the “U” better. He definitely seems like a freakish athlete for his size.

    • Rob Staton says:

      He’s always flirted with being very good. Flirted being the key word, meaning he never truly got there. I think he’ll be more expensive than perhaps he’s worth, and the TE options in this draft would lend me to look elsewhere.

  6. Attyla the Hawk says:

    This TE class looks very deep. Maybe 5 prospects at or above Orson Charles’ rated ability coming out. This position really looks like it could be a strong candidate for one of our day 3 picks — excluding the routinely mentioned TE talents that are easier for outsiders to analyze.

  7. Kenny Sloth says:

    How is an F different from a U?

  8. Kenny Sloth says:

    From this tape alone, I think that Escobar’s low rated blocking is unjustified. He was routinely handling his man. He sprung his runner for big gains. I think he might be the best tight end in this draft. Certainly the highest ceiling. Great player. I’d take him if he fell to us in the second. But not in the first. We have greater needs.

    • Chris says:

      I agree on the blocking. He looked just fine to me most of the time in this tape, better than some I’ve seen of Ertz. Not a ton of power straight up, but he only embarrassed himself on a couple plays, and seemed to be able to block guys in space or on the move pretty well.

  9. Hay stacker says:

    Rob, I read last year the hawks were really high on Kyle Rudolph in the draft. Is there any TE’s that resemble his play style?

    • Rob Staton says:

      Rudolph came out in the 2011 draft and I don’t recall any speculation of interest. There was some talk of interest in Coby Fleener last year. I really liked Rudolph although I don’t see a truly comparable orthodox TE in this class. He was a fine prospect at Notre Dame, superior to John Carlson and Tyler Eifert.

  10. Hawksince77 says:

    This may be simply stupid, but why wouldn’t the Seahawks consider utilizing 4-TE sets on occasion?

    – sign a FA (Cook/Davis)
    – draft somebody like Escobar/Kelce/whoever in the top two rounds
    – draft another TE later
    – get Morrah healthy and resigned
    – go something like 5/5 WR/TE in the final 53

    If you put 4 of these guys on the field at once with Lynch (or Turbin) in the backfield, how would you defense that? You could have Wilson under center dropping straight back, or play-action; line up in a zone-read look; line up in the pistol or straight gun.

    Point is, you could run any play in the offense, and Wilson goes with the mis-match. Audibles run or pass at the line, depending on the look. If pass, finds the open man or mis-match.

    How would any given defense stop this?

    • Hawksince77 says:

      Wilson ends up with a field full of tall talented targets (say Miller/McCoy/Escobar/Cook). All guys that can run-block as well. You could put these guys anywhere – spread out, stacked in the backfield, or in wings. Motion, crack-back, read-option run, etc. etc.

      • SunPathPaul says:

        Sounds like a good idea… Kind of like a special package of blocking catchers… Hmmm… I would love 5 WR and TE’s! That would be definitely difficult to manage for the D, then imagine we sneak that package out there prior to the D really getting it, then go no huddle to wear them out!! …and use those mismatches!

    • Rob Staton says:

      The league is getting bigger and faster. Tight ends are becoming more and more important. Getting a big, mobile target is a key factor these days. And it’s something Seattle completely lacks. They cannot have enough big pass catchers and the more they get on the field the better.

  11. Ron says:

    If we pick up DT/DE in FA, I’d prefer Eifert, great body control, solid frame, consistant desire & ability to block well, high points ball and catches with hands. Or if still on board take DeAndre Hopkins, and pick up TE in later rounds.

    Rob, if you get a chance check out tape of small school TE prospect, Kyle Juszczyk, he looks like Zach Miller 2.0, minus some height, optimumscouting project rnd – 5.

    Kyle Juszczyk – TE – Harvard – 6’2 – 245

    Highlight Link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS54FxLGpkk

  12. Hay stacker says:

    I just read on ffmastermind that Boldin will retire if the ravens don’t resign him. I can’t imagine either A they wouldn’t restructure him or
    B him actually retiring
    I’d love to see him lined up in a 3 Wr set with rice and Tate.

  13. Dan says:

    While I still don’t like the idea of adding offensive weapons in the first couple rounds, I’d much rather get an H-back than a big play receiver. The way our offense is set up we’d be able to stay run oriented with 2 TE sets. We’d also have Tate and Rice on every down. I still really like their tandem.

  14. Clayton says:

    Rob, my thoughts on drafting a TE in the 1st or 2nd is a bit different. We already have Zach Miller as the #1 TE and if there was going to be an upgrade, it would be to upgrade McCoy. I honestly think McCoy did a great job this year, and to spend a high pick to upgrade a #2 might be spending too much. In taking a look at the TEs drafted in the 1st round since 2006, you’ve got Gresham (2010), Pettigrew (2009), Keller (2008), Olsen (2007), Marcedes Lewis and Vernon Davis (2006). Other than Davis (arguably), historically, 1st round TEs don’t really put their teams over the top in my opinion. And I would go so far to say that other than Davis, McCoy was just as productive as those previous first round TEs. But again, if we’re drafting a TE this year, we’re not upgrading our #1, we’re upgrading our #2.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I don’t really see it like that – I see it more as an opportunity to mimic New England and use a joker. Have a WR/TE type (they used Hernandez) in the slot, split out wide — basically running WR routes. McCoy didn’t do this last year. You keep McCoy as the #2TE and draft what effectively becomes a hybrid receiver.

    • SunPathPaul says:

      I think the ‘linear 1-2-3′ thing is throwing some people off… It’s not real— Tate played better in games than Rice, and yes size/speed blah blah kind of sets up a hierarchy, but this approach destroys that model…

      Just look at the SB winning Ravens. Boldin/T. Smith/Pitta ALL played well and helped them win. It’s about “saturating your team with talent”, regardless of some linear 1-2-3 alignment.

      Get really good players on the field, you get really good football! That’s what real depth is…Talent across the board… and if we take at least 3 “catching draft picks”, whether 2 WR/1 TE, or 1WR/2TE, or 1WR/1TE/1H back, we will be accomplishing this. When I look at the prolific offenses, regardless of team ‘philosophy’ that may be different from Seattle’s, they have multiple TE’s and WR’s that are a mixed AND talented bunch. Let’s add to Rice, Tate and Miller, and take it to the next level!!

      Go Hawks!

  15. Madmark says:

    I like Travis Kelce for TE in the 3rd round. I thought about Dustin Keller but i afraid of the New York Jets players and the atmosphere they might bring here.
    Rob can you see Travis staying on the board till pick 87?

  16. Sam Jaffe says:

    I agree with Kenny Sloth. GE is made to look like a fool in about three of the plays on the above tape, but I was impressed with his blocking technique on the rest of them. And I was legitimately surprised by the straight line power he showed in some run plays. By far the best play was the end-around where he knocked his target out of tackling range and then punched an approaching tackler, knocking him out with a fist to the chest. Seeing that play probably made Tom Cable drool–a TE with a five yard blocking radius in all directions.

    On the receiving side, I was a little underwhelmed. I agree with Rob that he high-pointed the ball well, but he didn’t show much YAC, which is where you really get the payoff with a Joker. I also wasn’t impressed with his footwork on the sidelines.

    I think Escobar’s placement in the draft will be entirely dependent on how he times. If he’s as fast as he appears to be, then some front office will throw out the game film and sign him on potential alone.

    Another guy to watch at the combine is Ryan Otten. If he turns out to be faster than he looks on his game film, he is going to be a steal. He was a huge part of that offense and the only legitimate knock against him is that he looks slow. If he turns out to be fast at the combine, then he could be a legitimate second round target for the Seahawks.

    The other obvious target for the Seahawks in the first is Jordan Reed (as Rob has pointed out in the past). Thanks to Dan Quinn’s presence on the staff, they will already know if he’s the real deal. Interestingly, it may pay off for them not to pick him in the first. Every other team will be aware of Quinn’s inside knowledge and when they see Seattle passing on him in the first, red flags will go up, possibly leaving him unpicked til #56. It worked with Anthony McCoy (that and an unfortunate predilection for weed).

  17. Hay stacker says:

    I’m still high on Dustin Keller thru FA. He’s a solid blocker and has good hands (I mean come on he has to be good at catching since Sanchez is throwing to him!) and can get open in space. He reminds me of miller but faster. But I really don’t see Seattle going FA TE since this draft is deep at TE.

    Also Rob, the jets released LB Bart Scott, would he be a variable for us at WLB?

  18. Cameron says:

    Great write up Rob. After reading this and Kelly’s article on TE’s I have to shake my head and acknowledge that big, athletic, pass catching tight ends are the future. So, this is why we must draft…. Khaseem Greene. As Danny’s article pointed out, having a big, athletic pass catching tight end is a match up nightmare for defenses. Either they stay in base coverage where the tight end has a mismatch on the linebacker, or they go into a nickel coverage, in which case the offense can then exploit that mismatch with an effective running game. The only real solution is to have linebackers that can cover.

    There’s been lots of discussion as to whether or not drafting a WILL in the 1st round is good value or not. The way the league is evolving linebackers who have plus coverage abilities are about to be the hot commodity. The Seahawks may as well be ahead of the curve.

    As for the TE’s in the class, I agree, I think it’s rounding out to be a pretty deep class. The player I am most impressed with so far is Jordan Reed. He brings an element to the position you just don’t see: YAC potential. Other TE’s may be bigger, but I don’t think any other tight end in this class brings his combination of size, speed and overall athleticism. Forget about the blocking. In the NFL he won’t be asked to block DE’s… it will be corners and OLB’s. This is the guy that can create serious mismatch problems for opposing defenses.

  19. Zach says:

    Really like Ertz,Escobar,Reed,or Kelce.All offer a different dynamic to our offense that we don’t exactly have.There is some intriguing options via free agency like Cook,Davis,Myers,and James Casey all could be solid options

  20. Lubbock Air Corps says:

    I know this post is about Escobar, but Muema #4 for the Aztecs looks like he has some talent. He showed some nice burst and balance on a number of runs.

  21. Clayton Russell says:

    Adding a TE should really spread out opposing defenses especially if it is a TE that can consistently get inside/ outside of the LB’s and designed coverage. Free Agency this year really does not address that facet and would be a waste. However drafting a softhanded TE to complement or add a n extra-dimension to the passing game would be another great option for Wilson. If we are looking at adding this type of player it needs to be with round 3/4. As I have stated Defense is our primary need and has to be addressed and their will be plenty of DT/OLB and DE to choose from when our current picks come up. The TE list we all have been going over will probably have two first rounders (Ertz and Eifert) and Atlanta will probably target one of them if available (not Seattle). Jordan Reed and Kelce are probably fringe 2nd rounders while Escobar will probably go in the 3rd or 4th. Using a TE like New England would be a great, cause many match-up problems and probably have us averaging close to 24-26 points a game but unless we fix our running defense problem in which teams averaged over a 100+ yards towards the end of the season and add someone who can assist in disrupting the opponents QB we again will be talking about adding defensive players next year.

    Draft Defense First!

    1. Floyd, John Jenkins, Montgomery, Mingo, Ogletree,
    2. Green, Simon, Jelani. Jenkins, S. Williams, K Short
    3. Da’Rick Rogers, Jordan Reed, Escobar
    4. Right OT.

    Rob, thanks for the hard-work and varying scenarios. It’s also great to read others perspectives on our needs and draft strategies.

    Clayton R.

  22. cliff says:

    Rob,
    Watching tape on Kelce he looks like a better blocker than Ertz and is a great hands catcher. I’m really really impressed by his blocking. Kelce just doesn’t miss a block. You watch his tape and so many run and pass plays were successful because of his blocking. I don’t see how this guy lasts to #55. No way. I want this guy over Escobar, Ertz, or Reed as of now.

    Escobar needs to work on his blocking a lot more while his receiving is just average to me. Ertz is a better route runner and seems to be a little bit quicker but Kelce’s blocking is way better. When you look at Kelce’s potential once he learns to run routes a little better he so far is the best tight end in this class. He battles after the catch and seems to pick up quite a few YAC

    In our system, Kelce’s blocking prowess would allow Miller to run more routes and once Kelce’s route running comes to par he could be incredible. His size and strong hands would allow him to be a strong red zone threat too.

    • cliff says:

      After watching so more tape Reed has a lot of speed and is an adequate blocker. Kelce or Reed at our 2nd round pick would be amazing but i’d lean towards Kelce still. His current blocking with pass catching potential is too much to pass for me.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t blown away with Kelce as a receiver. Rounded off a lot of routes.

    • Madmark says:

      I liked Kelce myself he just does it all and he’s bigger than the others at 6’6″ and 260 ibs Rob says he probably won”t be around in the 3rd round so i m thinking of him in the 2nd now.

  23. A. Simmons says:

    I like that Cable quote in Danny Kelly’s article about dictating to the defense. If we could draft a TE that can beat LBs with his speed and athleticism and beat nickel corners with his physicality, then we can smash opposing defenses by utilizing run/pass audibles depending on their setup. So we would be looking for a TE that is a plus in all aspects of his game with more ability as a pass catcher, yet still able to block safeties and nickel corners. I could see us drafting such a guy in the 1st or 2nd. If we could get another big red zone target, that would be awesome. I love me some defense, but if we can get more potent on offense I’d be for it.

    • SunPathPaul says:

      Great to hear this! It does seem the best idea is to get a “Y” TE who does it all well…People get confused and say “we all ready have a number 1 TE”, I say “SO?”! We can have 2, easily!!! Why not have 2 all purpose THREATS as our TE’s! Totally makes sense to me. Then McCoy comes in on 3 TE sets when we want…They ALL can catch!, YES, Please!

  24. Aaron says:

    I really like UCLA’s Joseph Fauria. I was very surprised to see Danny didn’t even list him in his third tier, but was glad to see that you acknowledged him in your write up. He set the the UCLA record for yardage by a tight end in 2011, and had 12 touchdowns in 2012. As a Pac 12 fan, I watched him quite a bit this past season and he was dominant in the games I watched.

    The fact that he’s not even listed in Danny’s piece is an indication of what great value the Hawks could get – possibly picking him up in the 6th or 7th round, or even as an undrafted free agent.

    Here’s an article asking if Fauria could be the next Gronk:

    http://www.foxsportswest.com/10/19/12/UCLAs-Joseph-Fauria-the-next-Gronk/landing_ucla.html?blockID=807173

    • SunPathPaul says:

      After reading this article, and knowing for some time that he comes from a football family, I really like him…

      If we could grab him in the 5th, where we have 2 picks, that would be a HUGE value longterm…

    • Kenny Sloth says:

      Fauria is pretty awful, actually. He has decent measurables, but gets flattened in blocking, roounds off routes and doesn’t fight for the ball. He’s infinitely better at football than I’ll ever be.

    • Kenny Sloth says:

      Fauria is pretty awful, actually. He has decent measurables, but gets flattened in blocking, roounds off routes and doesn’t fight for the ball. He’s infinitely better at football than I’ll ever be.

      • SunPathPaul says:

        Well, if we miss on Ertz, Escobar, Reed and Kelce, he might be a valuable late round pick to add to that TE squad.

        He is a BIG guy that could work well with our RW… otherwise we have maybe–

        Vance McDonald, BJ Stewart, and who else to choose from???

  25. JC says:

    I haven’t seen a mock that has him going in the first two rounds yet…

    “In the official NFL evaluation report that Escobar got lat week, (Aztecs coach Rocky) Long said Escobar was projected to go as high as the third round of the draft. ”

    Source:
    http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/jan/07/sdsu-te-gavin-escobar-declaring-nfl-draft/

  26. SunPathPaul says:

    Rob, looks like Percy Harvin will be up for a 2ndR pick and maybe a sweetener…He’s only 5-11, 184

    What do you think about him and if his temperament will fit? Could PC and RW control him??

    Almost seems like Da’Rick Rodgers would be a cheaper WR with potential, and baggage like Percy, so which would you prefer??

    I’d trade next years 2nd R if possible…doubt they would do that though…

  27. Hay stacker says:

    Rob, the chiefs are rebuilding and I’d imagine they wouldn’t turn down a chance to acquire more picks. Would trying to trade for Jonathan Baldwin work out for us? I’d imagine he’s only worth a 3rd?

  28. Brian says:

    Rob, I know you’re doing a piece on travis kelce later on, but I was wondering if you could share any preliminary insights you might have? Or your thoughts on other lesser-known TE prospects like ryan otten? On a different note, do you think there’s any chance we draft a fullback in the later rounds, especially considering the bevy of later picks we have? Mike Rob looked good, but is 30 and only getting older, and having a protege for him would be great continuity-wise for our running game (or maybe a converted H-back/TE that could pull it off).

    • Rob Staton says:

      I wasn’t blow away with Kelce to be perfectly honest. Rounded off a lot of routes, more a blocker than a receiver. I am set to watch Otten soon. Will do a piece on the other tight ends.