Posted: 1:05 p.m. Friday, March 22, 2013
When looking at team needs, it's easy to identify last year's starters who are no longer with the team. Such is the case with Delanie Walker, who will be getting PAID in Tennessee to join the Titans. Walker was a (sorry to use the cliche) "Swiss Army Knife" for the 49ers offense, playing everywhere from wide receiver, tight end, full back, and h-back.
Replacing him won't be easy, but the 49ers have long been a team that often utilizes two tight ends, and the depth behind Walker isn't all that inspiring. Luckily, this year's NFL Draft is a good one for tight ends, with substantial depth through the middle rounds (and then some). One prospect the 49ers may take a look at is Gavin Escobar, formerly of San Diego State.
40-time: 4.84 (Combine), 4.7X (Pro Day)
Vertical Jump: 32"
Broad Jump: 114"
2012: 42 receptions, 543 yards, 6 TD, 12.9 YPC. 2011: 51 rec, 780 yds! 7TD, 15.3 YPC.
Doing your homework:
Check out a few of Escobar's cut-ups on DraftBreakdown.com, including the game against Boise State embedded below.
Why he fits the 49ers:
Escobar is a big, tall tight end who could provide some much-needed red-zone presence for the 49ers. He has the size to be a devastating blocker, though he isn't polished in that area at this time. He has a good feel in the passing game, amassing a ton of catches and yards in college.
Why he might not fit the 49ers:
The 49ers may decide they need a guy who can step in day one and fill Walker's role. Escobar could have a hard time getting up to speed in the playbook, along with having to really focus on honing his blocking ability. It's a lot to ask anyone, much less a rookie.
What they're saying:
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. Frequently used in motion before the snap. Occasionally slow plays first few steps to get defensive back flat footed.
Soft and tentative on first contact. Was held out of the full-time starting role in 2011 because of it. Leads with elbows or shoulders when blocking.
Compares To: Scott Chandler, TE, Buffalo Bills -- Like the former Iowa wideout, Escobar's value to his future NFL team will be in his ability to stretch the seam and make difficult grabs over the middle. If allowed to split out wide in this role, he could quickly emerge as a dangerous weapon.
While Escobar would have a big task ahead of him in learning everything that Delanie Walker did for the 49ers, he could potentially emerge as an excellent tight end in the Rob Gronkowski type role. He's not the speed demon that Vernon Davis is, but he should be capable of beating safeties and linebackers while also contributing in the run game. Walker was not a strong blocker when he arrived in the NFL, either, so it's possible the 49ers could mold Escobar into the player they need.