Most, including Gavin Escobar, were surprised when the Dallas Cowboys selected the San Diego State tight end in the middle of the second round last year.

Many projected Escobar to come off the board at least a round later.

While the rival New York Giants might not have had Escobar graded as highly as the Cowboys, they weren’t far off.

New Cowboys tight end coach Mike Pope, a position coach with the Giants for 23 seasons, said New York had Escobar ranked “pretty close” to where the Cowboys selected him.

“He’s got a flytrap for hands,” Pope said. “He has tremendous catching ability. He’s got those basketball-type skills. He can contort his body and make the acrobatic catches. He’s a very, very high percentage catcher. If the ball gets to him, he can adjust to it. And he’s very brave running down the field. Because he’s a big target, they can hit about any part of the three feet on him. He’s courageous.”

Escobar played in all 16 games during his rookie season, catching nine passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. But his snaps were limited for one major reason – he needs to become a better blocker.

To accomplish that goal, bulking up in the Valley Ranch weight room has been Escobar’s off-season regimen. Over the last week, Pope, head coach Jason Garrett and veteran tight end Jason Witten have all mentioned noticing Escobar’s added strength.

“He’s been methodically present and he’s worked really hard,” Pope said. “When you’re 6-7, there’s going to be some areas of your body that need more development. Most of the time, that’s the legs, and that was his background, being more of an athletic tight end, a space player. He’s worked hard this winter and I’ve been impressed by it.”

Witten has reached nine Pro Bowls and caught 879 passes because he’s been effective in both the running and passing game. To become more involved in the offense, Escobar must do the same.