(Editor's Note: As the NFL Draft approaches on May 8-10, DallasCowboys.com's Draft Series will analyze every position, including the Cowboys' needs at each and which players might be targeted with their 11 picks, while also providing some interesting draft nuggets. Part 2 features the tight ends.)
The Cowboys will be looking for second-year tight end Gavin Escobar to take the next step in his development and to find the right way to get him to mesh alongside perennial starter and star Jason Witten. Dallas used Escobar in a variety of ways last year, with perhaps his most shining moments coming as a receiver out of the slot. But with an offseason to build his body, the Cowboys may be more willing to use Escobar more frequently and with more confidence as an all-around tight end.
There were never any questions about Escobar's receiving ability. The second-round pick can catch the ball. But questions remain about his blocking ability as an on-the-line tight end. There's no question Witten's the leader of this group still and will be the featured player among the tight ends, but Escobar flashed his receiving ability last year and could wind up being a favorite near the red zone in 2014.
Last year around this time, the Cowboys' organization was touting the importance of the two tight-end set. That didn't come to fruition the way it had been discussed, particularly with the emergence of Terrance Williams in three-wide sets, but it could be used more as long as Escobar is progressing.
It'll be interesting to see how they get James Hanna, a player many predicted to breakout last season, involved in the offense. Hanna's shown flashes in his first two years in the league, but it may be tough to get him and Escobar both involved.
What They Need:
Tight end has to be among the lowest needs for this team, but if the Cowboys are to add another, I'd expect it would be a big, bulky blocker. None of their three tight ends are particularly bulldozing blockers, and the Cowboys could use a player like that near the goal line. They've featured jumbo, three tight-end packages in the past. If they're to do that with any consistency and success, a stellar blocker at tight end would help.
Fred Davis and Jermichael Finley are probably the biggest names remaining in free agency at tight end, although the latter's coming off a spinal cord injury and may need some more time to heal and get cleared. Speaking of a player coming off injury, Dustin Keller's also available after a serious knee collision kept him out last season. If the Cowboys are interested in a veteran tight end with size, former Panthers tight end Ben Hartsock is also a free agent. [embedded_ad]
With his combination of size (6-4) and speed (ran a 4.60 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine), North Carolina's Eric Ebron is the favorite to be the first tight end off the board in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Local product Jace Amaro, a Texas Tech product who turned heads at the Combine by finishing in the top five at his position in the 40, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle, could also sneak his way into the end of the first round.
If not for a foot injury, Washington's Austin-Seferian Jenkins could also be in that category. But it's still possible he's a late first or second-round talent. C.J. Fiederowicz, a 6-5 tight end from Iowa, and Crockett Gilmore, a 6-6 tight end from Colorado State, could both be among the intriguing mid-round options given their size and blocking ability.
**For a more in-depth look at all the draft prospects, check out the *Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine* 2014 Draft Guide, which profiles more than 80 potential picks with rankings for over 300 players available in the upcoming draft. Digital subscriptions, which include 32 issues throughout the year, are available for just $14.99.**