I was a big fan of Anthony McCoy going into the 2010 draft. He never put up big numbers at USC, but the potential was clear to see. Without the character red flags and better production, he had first or second round talent. Of course, those are two pretty big issues. And that’s why he dropped to the sixth round.
Pete Carroll has taken only a handful of players he coached in college. He’s been quite selective overall (see: Lawrence Jackson, Lofa Tatupu) and its testament to McCoy’s potential despite the red flags that he was given a shot. None of the off-field concerns have re-emerged in Seattle so far. With Kellen Winslow failing to make the roster and Cameron Morrah landing on injured reserve, he ended up as the teams #2 tight end last year. And he did pretty well. He certainly managed to limit the drops — an issue that lingered the previous season. He scored three touchdowns for a team that didn’t pass all that much in 2012, with 291 yards.
In some ways you could say that was the next stage of a slow development process. He’s still only 25 and won’t turn 26 until December 28th. With Russell Wilson blossoming into a leading quarterback by the end of the year, any pass-catcher playing for this team is likely to benefit in the future. The addition of Percy Harvin could limit the amount of 2TE sets they use (it stands to reason they’ll want to put Harvin, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate on the field more often than not) but it’s unlikely to be banished to the back of the playbook. McCoy, if he continues as the #2 tight end, could still play a role for this team.
Before the Harvin trade most people expected the Seahawks to explore the possibility of getting a ‘move’ tight end to act as a Joker in certain packages. This would obviously be a big, mobile target who can run a lot of receiver routes but allow the Seahawks to use a lot of big sets up front. They could still look for that guy and you could easily argue they need another tall receiver who can exploit single coverage and high point the football. They tried out Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow for a reason. I’m not sure they completely abandon that quest for height now that they’ve brought in an explosive guy like Harvin. Targeting a late round guy like Rutgers’ Mark Harrison makes sense.
Yet anyone they do bring in is probably going to need to offer something different. Just like Harvin, I suppose. When I watch Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State) I fear he might just be a little too similar to what they already have in McCoy.
Escobar is 6-6 while McCoy is 6-5. Both players ran in the 4.8′s pre-draft. There’s a weight difference of about 5lbs. And while either player is capable of making those difficult, eye catching grabs in traffic — they’re also capable of the occasional miss.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Escobar as a prospect. I expected him to run faster at the combine (I also expected McCoy to run faster than he did). And there are things he does a little better than McCoy. In his combine work out (see below) he looked a bit more fluid and mobile. I remember the play against St. Louis where McCoy was wide open, Wilson hits him downfield and he kind of awkwardly rumbled forward before being brought down. I think Escobar would’ve been a little sharper in that situation, turning up field and perhaps making more of the opportunity. He seems to keep his balance well for a big guy and he just looks smooth out there. I’d give Escobar the edge as a catcher too — he has soft hands and that’s a pretty handsome looking gauntlet drill in the video below:
I’m sure I read somewhere that John Schneider and his staff look at the roster and have a grading system for each player. Then they look at what’s available and try to see where the biggest possible upgrades can be made in free agency or a draft. When they look at the #2 tight end position, I’m sure they’ll feel it’s an area they can improve. McCoy isn’t Jimmy Graham after all. And I’m not sure you’d feel totally satisfied if he had to take over from Miller either temporarily or full time. But I’m not sure the areas where Escobar has the edge (balance, slightly better athlete, softer hands) will be enough to say, “we need to draft this guy in round two”. I doubt he’ll be available for the Seahawks beyond that range.
I think he’ll be at his best working on the second level where the height and reach becomes an advantage. He’ll be a good checkdown option and could develop into a reliable third down target. I do think Escobar has a shot to be an effective receiver who can find little soft zones and make key grabs. He should also be effective in the red zone at that size. Throw the ball up to him on a fade and there’s a good chance he’ll bring it down.
But if the Seahawks are going to draft a tight end early, they probably need to do more than offer a slight upgrade over Anthony McCoy. Both Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz ran receiver routes in college, they’ve both shown a similar ability to make grabs at the second level but they’ve also shown they can stretch the field a little bit more. Eifert is a better athlete, Ertz was Stanford’s leading receiver. Despite concerns over Ertz’s 4.7 at the combine, watching him run deep against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl told me all I need to know. I’m not convinced either player makes it to #56, but they’re probably going to have to if the Seahawks draft for this position in the second round.
Free agency has tailed off across the league this weekend despite a number of key names remaining available. Perhaps everyone is taking stock? The league meetings in Arizona are probably having an impact. It could kick start again this week but it’ll be interesting to see what (if any) moves Seattle go for. They only had two starters hitting free agency this year — Alan Branch and Leroy Hill. The defensive tackle and linebacker positions both remain unfilled. Amid the excitement of last week’s triple signing of Harvin, Avril and Bennett, we all talked about how open the draft would be for this team. Yet if those holes remain unfilled by late April — it’s still hard to look beyond a defensive tackle and a linebacker with those two ‘day two’ picks.
It’ll be very interesting to see whether Branch in particular re-signs with the Seahawks. The noises so far (we’ve talked to his agent etc) don’t sound promising. It could be leverage. Or it could be an indication that they truly believe they can fill that hole in the draft. If they don’t go with Branch then a defensive tackle has to be the favourite at #56.
Below you’ll find Escobar’s tape against Boise State from 2012. The video at the top of the article shows two games versus Washington State and Michigan from 2011.