Was Gavin Escobar Underutilized By The Dallas Cowboys In 2013?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There have been 17 TE's drafted in the top two rounds since 2007. How does Gavin Escobar stack up?

A recent quote by new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan about playing to his players strengths has generated a lot of buzz around BTB. There have been questions on whether or not that quote is an indictment of Jason Garrett.  There has been even more talk about how our defense failed to play to its players strengths, especially regarding the cornerbacks. But most of the talk seemed to center around our very own Gavin "Pablo" Escobar, he of the nine receptions for 134 yards.  We spent a second-round pick on this guy!  He's either a huge bust or, of course, he's being underutilized!

But is that true? Let's take a deeper look at the numbers and find the truth behind the meme.

THE NUMBERS

Over the past two years there have been five TE's selected in the first two rounds of the draft. Here they are, along with snap count and total percentage of offensive snaps played, (the draft spot the player was picked in is in parenthesis).

Coby Fleener (34)..........450 total snaps.........38.5% of offensive snaps played

Tyler Eifert (21)..............673 total snaps..........59.5% of offensive snaps played

Zack Ertz (35)................450 total snaps..........40.8% of offensive snaps played

Gavin Escobar (47)........324 total snaps..........19.8% of offensive snaps played

Vance McDonald (55).....450 total snaps..........48.4% of offensive snaps played

Yikes. No matter how you cut it, those numbers are bad. Gavin is not within 100 snaps of the next closest TE and the next closest TE nearly doubles the percentage of snaps played. For whatever reason, Gavin Escobar just did not play much last season.

"Ah!" says the imaginary person sitting beside me. "Your numbers are for geeks and losers!  Winners don't care about stats, they care about making plays!  And I remember Gavin Escobar's flip touchdown against the Eagles. He may not have played much, but he produced!" My imaginary friend then slammed down his mug of what appeared to be blue and silver kool-aid and stormed away, leaving me both dumbfounded and ashamed of this transitional paragraph. Because unfortunately for my imaginary kool-aid drinking friend, the numbers are still not in Escobar's favor.

There have been 17 TE's drafted in the first two rounds since 2007, (amazingly all 17 are still in the league although not all of them have a current team).  Here is how Escobar's first year stacks up to the average.

Name...........GS...........Rec............Yards.............TD's

Escobar........2..............9..................134................2

Avg Year.......8..............29.7..............361.4.............2.9

Again, the numbers aren't pretty.  Only two of the 17 TE's had worse numbers than "Pablo".

What It Means

So looking at the numbers it does seem that our coaches struggled to find ways to get Escobar on the field, which is unfortunate, because when he was on the field he did seem to produce. If you prorate his stats to the average year of a tight end by games started he starts to look a little better.

Name...........GS...........Rec............Yards.............TD's

Escobar........8..............36..................536................8

Avg Year.......8..............29.7..............361.4.............2.9

Not exactly Jason Witten, but not shabby by any account. So Gavin has some skills. Why didn't he play more?  Well, the big reason, of course, is the Senator himself, Jason Witten. The Senator was tops among all TE's in percentage of offensive snaps played, playing on 98.7% of the Cowboys offensive snaps, and still finding time to play in 16.6% of special teams snaps!

"Ah!" Says a different imaginary friend (I don't have much of a social life). "You can't fool me. What about that vaunted 12 package that was supposed to take the NFL by storm? Just more proof our coaches don't know what they're doing!"  My friend then stormed away muttering something about being a realist, leaving me again dumbfounded and ashamed.

The truth is, Dallas did play the 12 package more in 2013.  It's just that the snaps didn't go to Gavin Escobar, they went to James Hannah. 2013 saw every TE from first to third string, see an increase in snap percentages.

2012

Witten........98.0% of snaps played

Phillips.......30.3% of snaps played

Hannah......9.5% of snaps played

2013

Witten.......98.2% of snaps played

Hannah.....31.2% of snaps played

Escobar.....19.8% of snaps played

So in 2013 our first and second string TE's saw a slight bump in use but our third string TE nearly doubled his playing time.

WHAT'S IT ALL MEAN BASIL?

First, it means that it's almost impossible to compare Gavin Escobar's rookie season to other high TE picks. It seems that Gavin really was brought in with a plan to slowly develop, where the majority of the other TE's were brought in to be the primary TE. Second, it means that we can expect to see Gavin Escobar replace Hanna as the second TE. For whatever reason Hanna regressed in 2013. Despite tripling his playing time he only caught four more passes than the previous year and his receiving yards went down.

What does that mean for Gavin's production?  If history is anything to go by, he should see a pretty substantial jump.

.......................Rec...............Yards............TD's

Year 1 TE........29.7..............361.4.............2.9

Year 2 TE........49.9................589...............5

That's an increase by a factor of about 1.5. And most of that increase didn't come with a major increase in playing time, just natural progression. If Gavin Escobar takes over the majority of Hanna's minutes he will nearly triple his playing time, and I think Cowboy fans will be very happy with the results.

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