The NFL Draft Jingle Blog — even Mel Kuiper’s hair can’t compete with a slogan like that — has really rejuvenated my interest in football, so I’m reviewing another prospect today. San Diego State University and tight end Gavin Escobar played a home game against BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl last night. The BYU pass rush disrupted any semblance of an SDSU passing game, limiting Escobar to a solitary catch down the seam for 24 yards. Fortunately, Escobar has a body of work stretching back three years on which to judge his NFL chances.
I like Escobar. He has good speed for a tight end, good hands, and good body control while making the tough catches. While it’s hard to judge “route-running” on the basis of the limited camera angles published online, Escobar’s success with both Ryan Lindley and Dingwell at quarterback, each of whom found Escobar open quite often, suggests that he committed himself to playing well within coach Rocky Long’s system.
A team looking to draft Escobar faces two problems. First, he is a poor blocker for a big man. He certainly tries, but he lacks the consistent pad level and pop to make himself an asset in an NFL run game. This also suggests, by the way, that Escobar will have limited value on special teams, where blocking is paramount. For Escobar to warrant a spot on the 53-man roster, he will have to excel in the passing game.
But his skills don’t project receiving excellence at the next level. Escobar may be reliable. He may even present a tough matchup at times, if he can learn to use his body against smaller safeties and his speed against bigger linebackers. That said, NFL rosters are littered with tight ends who present such challenges, to one degree or another, for a defense. It’s not clear Escobar warrants spending a high draft pick, especially with h
is deficiencies as a blocker. If you’re looking for a comparator, try a poor man’s Todd Heap.
Escobar, if he leaves school, may represent a value pick in the fourth round. Teams like Cleveland and Arizona, who have struggled to add a pass-catching tight end to complement their receivers, could even justify taking Escobar in the late third. An early third round pick or higher would likely be too much to sacrifice.