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Seahawks say third-round pick Nick Vannett is draft’s best blocking TE

RENTON – Tight end Nick Vannett never caught more than 20 passes in any of his four seasons at Ohio State, where he finished his career with only 55 in all.

So it wasn’t his receiving chops that led the Seahawks to take him with the second of their three third-round picks Friday night, No. 94 overall. It was Seattle’s desire to equip its run-first offense with the type of player that is becoming increasingly hard to find.

“We were really surprised that we had the shot at him,” coach Pete Carroll said, “and fired up that we got the best blocking tight end in the draft this year – without question.”

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Tight end was a position that Seattle figured to address in this draft with starter Jimmy Graham coming off a serious knee injury and backup Luke Willson entering the final year of his rookie contract. That the Seahawks would spend a third-round pick on Vannett speaks to how important they consider his skill-set to their offense and how there aren’t as many players these days who have it.

Vannett, listed at 6 foot 6 and 260 pounds, is different than the other tight ends on Seattle’s roster. He’s considered a Y tight end, which is an in-line blocker with a bigger body who is almost like a sixth offensive linemen when he’s on the field. And it’s a diminishing breed as the proliferation of spread offenses in college has placed a premium on the guys who can catch.

“We’ve been looking for a true Y for several years now,” general manager John Schneider said. “It’s weird. They don’t come along very often.”

Vannett’s receiving totals require some context. Ohio State’s offense didn’t feature tight ends in the passing game, Carroll said, and it had so many other weapons that targets were even harder to come by. Running back Ezekiel Elliott was the fourth overall pick and wide receiver Braxton Miller was chosen ahead of Vannett in the third round.

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“I think, especially in this draft, I’m one of the best three-down tight ends who can do both,” Vannett said. “I’ve always felt that I was a great receiver, and that’s something I did a lot of at Ohio State when Jeff Heuerman was there. Then once he moved on (to the NFL), I really had to step up my blocking game. That’s an area where I made tremendous strides in, so I think that allowed me to be a really good blocking and receiving tight end. But I think I’m just your typical three-down tight end who can do it both.”

Added Carroll: “We have no problem throwing him the football. We’re not going to stay away from that at all. But we really need him to be an impact player at the line of scrimmage for us.”