The statistics say the Dallas Cowboys have had one of the best offenses in the NFL the past few years, but they have also struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone. In 2013 they ranked sixth in the league in yards but only 20th in red zone touchdown scoring percentage.
To improve on their red zone woes, the Cowboys drafted tight end Gavin Escobar to help. Escobar’s size and ability as a pass catcher make him a red zone threat and the Cowboys might have found their Rob Gronkowski in Escobar.
Before anyone starts picking the comparison apart, I didn’t say he was as good as the Gronk, but I did say they might have found their Gronkowski. They may not have elite speed or athleticism but has the ability to get open and the size to beat defenders. In fact, the tight ends have plenty in common.
Obviously the size of both makes a comparison very easy since Gronkowski is just over six-foot-six and Escobar is a shade under that and both weigh around 260 pounds.. However, in reading their scouting reports, they have very similar attributes. Below is NFL.com’s scouting report on Rob Gronkowski:
Strengths: Gronkowski has prototypical size and good speed. Shows fluid hips and runs precise routes. Possesses the lateral quickness and burst to get open in man coverage. Catches the ball away from his chest and displays good body control. Effective blocker that can generate a push.
The same report lists his weakness as top end speed and the Gronk ran an unofficial 40-time of 4.68 at his Pro Day. Other numbers of note were his vertical jump, 33 1/2, his 20-yard shuttle was 4.47 and his arm length was 34 1/4 inches.
Escobar’s Pro Day numbers were very similar to Gronkowski’s. He ran a 4.84 40-yard dash, had a vertical jump of 32, a better 20-yard shuttle at 4.31 and his arm length is just shy of 34 inches. The scouting report from NFL.com on Escobar:
Strengths: Excellent hands catcher, very natural. Locates ball over shoulder very easily, picks the target out of the air effortlessly. Runs the seam like a wideout, long strides and eats up ground. Frequently beat defensive backs vertically, especially when they anticipated the route to be broken off. Absorbs contact even when catching away from body. Can sustain a run block if he gets inside hand position and latch.
Although the words are spelled out differently, the strengths of Escobar are similar to the strengths of Gronkowski. They are both natural receivers who beat coverage with regularity. And despite their lack of top level speed that some tight ends possess, it hasn’t been a problem for Gronkowski in his first three years in the league so hopefully it won’t be a big factor in Escobar’s success. Speed is an important part of the NFL, but there is also no substitute for size and Escobar has it.
None of this is to say that Escobar will be as good as Gronkowski but the similarities are there and Cowboys fans can only hope that Escobar can have the impact that Gronkowski has had for the New England Patriots. Gronk’s 38 touchdowns in his first three seasons leads all tight ends in that category and the Cowboys would be happy with half of that total.
If the Dallas Cowboys want to improve in the red zone, they would be wise to look at how the Patriots utilize Gronkowski in that area. Perhaps if that happens, we can talk about the comparisons being production related and not a scouting report.