Posted: 6:00 a.m. Thursday, May 2, 2013
By Archie Barberio
After a quiet free agent period, the Dallas Cowboys entered the 2013 NFL Draft with the opportunity to improve their football team and get younger. The goal of every draft is simple, get good football players and leave the draft with a better team. In essence, the Cowboys managed to do that and along the way they solved some needs, but also left some holes open.
If you wanted this franchise to answer every need with just six picks, well then you were going to come away disappointed. It's nearly impossible to do that, so we shouldn't expect even the best drafting teams to accomplish that feat.
The Cowboys accomplished some of their goals and found value along the way. While this isn't my favorite draft class in recent years, this year's haul is a solid one and the players acquired have the potential to all become contributors or starters.
It's extremely difficult and premature to grade a draft class this early, but the grading process is common in the NFL community. Even though we won't know how successful or unsuccessful a draft will be for a few years, I always follow up with my own grades.
If you predicted the Cowboys would draft a tight end before the third or fourth round, then you were right on the money. However prior to the draft, selecting a tight end wasn't something that was looked at as a pressing need. Adding a blocking tight end definitely looked like that was a strategy the war room would follow, but they surprised us with the 47th pick and drafted San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar.
Before we get into the selection of Escobar, let's take a look at some of the players Dallas passed on. There were a lot of good players on the board in the second round. Cornerback wasn't a pressing need, but Jamar Taylor out of Boise State was the perfect fit for Monte Kiffin's scheme.
The two players I was slamming my hands on the table for were Eddie Lacy and Arthur Brown. Jason Garrett's Alabama connection didn't come into play, yet again, and the Cowboys didn't seem to value the powerful running back at 47. Had the Cowboys taken Lacy, man that would be a serious backfield to deal with. Brown was the final player I had a first-round grade on. His addition to the depth chart would give the Cowboys the best linebacker unit in football and the Baltimore Ravens quickly moved up to secure their replacement for Ray Lewis.
One last player the war room passed on was supposedly rumored to be off of their board. Larry Warford could have been selected at 47 and along with Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith, they may have solved a majority of the offensive line issues for a very long time. Warford apparently didn't fit the scheme and was passed over.
The selection of Escobar is an interesting one because of the risk and reward the athletic tight end brings to the offense.
Dallas has swung for the fences on this position in the second round before and had huge misses. Anthony Fasano never panned out, while Martellus Bennett also flamed out and went from a fan favorite to one of the most loathed players on the Cowboys' roster. Give the management credit here, they will not let up on finding the perfect tight end to fit their scheme and give them the ability to run a multiple tight end set.
Even though the past reminds us of the previous horror stories and failures, the reward could be huge. Escobar is a massive target (6'6", 254) that possesses elite ball skills and tremendous hands. His timed speed in the 40 yard dash (4.88) doesn't look appealing, but his pro day time was much better and in the 4.7 range. Obviously that isn't elite, but Escobar plays faster than he times and he was a top performer in all of the quickness drills at the NFL Combine for his position. He's quick out of his breaks, is great at headfakes and is a crisp route runner. Those abilities can allow him to become a serious playmaker.
Some draftniks felt that Escobar had the best hands and ball skills in the draft, such as ESPN analyst Todd McShay.
Ertz and Eifert have very good hands, but best ball skills grade I gave to TEs went to SDSU TE Gavin Escobar— Todd McShay (@McShay13) February 23, 2013
By now we've come to the conclusion that Dallas is gearing their offense towards the preferences and tastes of Tony Romo. If they envision a New England style of attack that employs multiple tight ends, then Romo is going to be in for a treat. He now has a roster full of dynamic weapons that can either stretch the field or work the middle of it. If Escobar turns out to be the player that Dallas thinks he is, then they may have finally got this multiple tight end thing right.
Because of his ball skills and ability to become a weapon in the red zone, Escobar is a player who can contribute immediately, but he's also the future and long-term option to someday replace Jason Witten. While there were other players available that possibly could have played more and became starters at other positions, the Cowboys did just draft one of the best tight ends in the draft. This is by far our riskiest pick and there is bust factor here, but this kid could also become the next Dennis Pitta.
Just a hunch and I have no truth or facts to back this up, but I believe this was the player the San Francisco 49ers were targeting later in the second round and when he was gone, they engineered another trade to move up and take Rice tight end Vance McDonald at 55. If indeed that was the case, then after getting over on us earlier, it feels good knowing that the 49ers lost their guy.