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Fifth round (No. 158): TE Luke Willson, Rice

By Danny O’Neil

The rationale: Seattle has spent the past two years searching for a pass-catching tight end to pair with Zach Miller. In 2011, it was supposed to be John Carlson except he tore his labrum in training camp and missed the year. Last year, it was going to be Kellen Winslow only he refused the paycut that had been agreed to and was released.

The Luke Willson file

Position: Tight end
School: Rice
Height/Weight: 6-5, 252 lbs.
Drafted: Round 5, 158 overall
Notable: A native of Ontario, Canada. Spent time in the Blue Jays’ minor-league system and was drafted by the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts last month.

Now, Seattle will try an athletically gifted tight end from Rice who was overshadowed his senior year by Vance McDonald, who was chosen in the second round by San Francisco.

Willson was not invited to the scouting combine, but that has never scared off Seattle before. Receiver Kris Durham wasn’t at the combine two years ago and Seattle chose him in the fourth round. Linebacker Korey Toomer wasn’t at the combine last year and Seattle drafted him in the fifth.

Ed Dodds – the area scout who reported on Willson – remarked on the overall athleticism, playing hockey growing up in addition to baseball. Willson played for Canada’s junior national team after his senior year of high school before going to Rice. Dodds said Willson was timed at 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash during his pro day.

“I don’t know if he knows it yet, but he can run,” Dodds said.

The risk: He caught nine passes as a senior. Yep, nine receptions, and before you cite injuries, realize he played in 11 games.

Willson caught 33 passes as a sophomore and 29 as a junior, but this is a bet on physical potential over past production, Seattle thinking that it can look to the second tier of Rice’s depth chart and find an incredible talent. As for finding a pass catcher to pair with Miller, there’s no guarantee Willson will be more productive than Anthony McCoy, a backup the past three years.

The bottom line: “He’s going to be a guy who can give us a downfield threat from that position,” said Dodds, the area scout.