“Over/Under” is a glance at a pair of players at each position; one who TDR believes in overrated, and one who we believe is underrated.
OVER: Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
Escobar is a frustrating case because of his inconsistency. One minute, he’s out-leaping a defender in the end zone for a jump-ball touchdown, and the next he’s dropping multiple routine throws, sometimes in crucial situations. There is plenty of potential for Escobar to develop into a solid, every-down player, but I just don’t see enough on tape to warrant his recent stock spike.
The biggest flaw in Escobar’s game is his propensity to drop very catchable throws. For a tight end who is now widely considered the third-best in this class, his level of inconsistency in catching the ball is simply simply unacceptable. He’ll also need to add some bulk to be a reliable blocker at the next level, and scouts will always worry that added bulk may equal a loss of athleticism, which Escobar can’t afford.
As with any player projected as high as he is, there are plenty of positives to Escobar’s game: tall frame, catches the ball away from his body, willing to mix it up with the big uglies in the run game. But especially when considering the sub-par competition that he faced on a regular basis on the Mountain West Conference, I simply don’t see the best tight end in this class after Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz.
UNDER: Joseph Fauria, UCLA
In today’s NFL, teams are looking for a very different tight end than in years past. The players in the league who are having the biggest impact aren’t the balanced, half-decent blocker/half-decent receiver types, but rather the tall, lean-framed receiving threats who can create mismatches and strike fear into defenses in the red zone. Fauria fits the latter bill perfectly.
Fauria’s size is obviously the first thing that jumps out. At 6-7, 260, the nephew of former NFL tight end Christian Fauria has the frame and wingspan that teams covet at the position. While not a burner when it comes to straight-line speed, Fauria has great overall athleticism, which with combined with his size advantage, creates serious matchup problems for defenses, especially in the red zone. He’s at his best down the seams, where he challenges linebackers to hang with him down the field, using great hand/arm technique to separate, and catching the ball consistently away from his body and at the highest point, frustrating safeties who come down or over to try to make a play on the ball. He reminds me of Jimmy Graham in just about every good way, and while his thinner frame works against him as an in-the-box blocker in the run game, the effort and willingness is there, and he uses his long arms to his advantage as a downfield blocker.
Fauria was an end-zone magnet in the Pac-12 last year, hauling in 12 touchdown passes. While he’s not the most balanced tight end in this class, his play-making ability in the passing game will make him a dynamic threat in the right system, and will allow him to greatly outplay his draft position.