Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

April 27, 2013

NFL DRAFT: Romo's voice heard as Dallas takes pass catchers

DALLAS — Tony Romo's voice was heard on the second day of the NFL draft - just like it was on the first.

The Dallas Cowboys got him another tight end, even though owner and general manager Jerry Jones doesn't see Jason Witten's career ending soon. And they grabbed him a receiver who used to catch passes from Robert Griffin III, even though Dez Bryant is coming off a career year.

The Cowboys took San Diego State tight end Gavin Escobar with the 47th overall pick in the second round Friday night, then used a pick they got from San Francisco when trading down in the first round on Baylor receiver Terrance Williams.

Romo, who signed a six-year, $108 million contract with $55 million guaranteed last month, offered input on Escobar and Williams, and had lobbied for better blocking before the Cowboys traded down and got Wisconsin center Travis Frederick on Thursday night - a move mocked by analysts and derided by frustrated fans who've seen just one playoff win since 1996.

"We were looking at ways to give Romo's talents a better shot,'' Jones said. "I'm unabashed about that.''

Williams was an AP All-America last season at Baylor after catching 97 passes for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns when Nick Florence was his quarterback. With Griffin throwing to him in 2011, Williams had 59 catches for 957 yards and 11 scores.

A Dallas high school product, Williams said he used to be Bryant on the scout team at Baylor when Bryant was at Oklahoma State.

"To get a chance to play beside him, that means the world to me because I get to learn from one of the best,'' Williams said. "He's somebody that can help me throughout this whole process.''

Bryant had a quick welcome via Twitter.

"Congrats bro.now let's go to work,'' tweeted Bryant, who career highs with 92 catches, 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Williams played for Baylor coach Art Briles, whose daughter is on the public relations staff of the Cowboys.

"We feel like we know the player,'' coach Jason Garrett said. "He's just a really good young and he's been a very productive player down there.''

Six picks after grabbing Williams, Dallas made its first defensive choice at No. 80 overall with Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox, who was a receiver and running back his first three years in the Football Championship Subdivision, a notch below the top level of college football.

The Cowboys have taken five tight ends since Witten, the franchise leader in receptions, went in the third round a decade ago. None was drafted higher than Escobar, who went 22 spots higher than Witten went in 2003 and earlier than second-rounders Anthony Fasano in 2006 and Martellus Bennett in 2008.

Witten is entering his 11th season, but the Cowboys view Escobar as another dimension for their offense, not the heir apparent to Witten, who turns 31 next month and is signed through 2017.

"I'm always striving to be a complete tight end like Jason Witten,'' said Escobar, the highest choice at tight end for Dallas since David LaFleur was the 22nd pick in the first round in 1997. "And if I'm able to take over his role once he's gone, that would be amazing.''

Witten became the first Dallas pass catcher with 800 career receptions last year. He's third on the NFL career list with 806 catches for 8,948 yards, trailing Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe in both categories.

Escobar fits the Witten mold in that he's a receiver first, which means blocking tops the list of areas where he needs to improve. He had 122 catches for 1,646 yards and 17 touchdowns in three seasons with the Aztecs. His best year was 2011, when he career highs of 51 receptions, 780 yards and seven scores.

"Right now, I'm trying to just work on getting bigger and working on the run game more,'' he said. "That's one thing I need to excel on to be a complete tight end, a three-down tight end.''

Based purely on draft status, Escobar would seem likely to replace James Hanna as Witten's backup. Hanna, a sixth-round pick last year, was drawing praise from coaches late last season. He was the third tight end behind Witten and John Phillips, a sixth-round pick in 2009 who signed with San Diego as a free agent.

"We like his length, we like his athleticism, he's a natural pass catcher,'' Garrett said. "We're excited about the second tight end. This is a guy who can really come in and make a difference for us at that spot.''

The Cowboys have three picks Saturday - one each in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds. They traded their seventh-rounder to Miami last year for center Ryan Cook.

 

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