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NFL breakout players 2018: Can Geoff Swaim help the Cowboys move on from Jason Witten?

Those are big shoes to fill, but Swaim looks to be up to the task.

Kansas City Chiefs v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In his first three seasons, Geoff Swaim had a combined nine receptions. That’s the kind of lack of production that tends to happen sometimes when you’re stuck playing behind a future Hall of Famer who never misses any games, like my fellow former Tennessee Volunteer Jason Witten. Now that Witten has retired, Swaim will finally get the opportunity to show the kind of player he can be.

At 6’4 and 260 pounds Swaim has good size for a tight end. Because of Witten’s presence, pretty much the only chance Swaim had to get on the field was to prove himself as a competent blocker, so it is already apparent he’s good in that department. Now he just needs to show he can use his size to help him be a formidable receiving option.

There isn’t any reason why Swaim can’t be one of the better all-around tight ends in the league this season, if he can show the ability to consistently catch the football.

In the limited amount of plays where the Cowboys involved Swaim in the passing game in his first three seasons, he has looked natural and fluid running his routes and catching the football. On the few occasions when the Cowboys sent him on deeper routes, he looked plenty fast, too. Swaim should at least be able to get open on most linebackers, and he is athletic enough to run all kinds of routes, as well.

In addition to Witten’s retirement, James Hanna, who was second string, also retired this spring because of a knee injury. That means the starting job and the targets that come with it are just sitting right there for Swaim. The former seventh-rounder will probably never have a better opportunity in his career to show the Cowboys that he should be “the guy” at tight end.

There aren’t exactly a lot of other potential candidates breathing down Swaim’s neck to try to win the job. One guy, Blake Jarwin is reportedly looking good so far in camp, but he was an undrafted free agent in 2017 and only active for one game. Another guy, Rico Gathers, is a former college basketball player who didn’t play football in college and has never even been active for a game. In fact, Swaim is the only tight end currently on the Cowboys roster who had a catch in an NFL game last season.

It’s not exactly rocket science here, people.

Swaim has already shown he has good traits for the position. He blocked well while waiting his turn, and now, heading into his fourth season out of Texas, he should finally get every opportunity to allow his production to match his potential.

If he does what he’s supposed to do, he will nail down the starting job and his numbers will go way up. Even if he somehow finds himself as the backup again this season, with Witten no longer hogging all of the tight end targets, Swaim should still see a substantial increase in production. Yes, yes, I know having a big increase over Swaim’s career high in catches of six is not exactly Mission Impossible. Remember, however, that having a breakout season is always relative.

Swaim may never make a Pro Bowl, but he can make a huge improvement in his production. I believe 2018 will be the year that sees Swaim take that next step in his career.

Confidence level: High