BRADY HENDERSON

Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 21, TE Nick Vannett

Jul 3, 2016, 9:07 AM | Updated: Jul 5, 2016, 5:19 pm
The Seahawks have been pleasantly surprised by rookie tight end Nick Vannett's pass-catching abilit...
The Seahawks have been pleasantly surprised by rookie tight end Nick Vannett's pass-catching ability. (AP)
(AP)
LISTEN: Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 21, TE Nick Vannett

Each day until the start of training camp, “Brock and Salk” is talking with an NFL analyst and counting down the 25 most intriguing players on the Seahawks’ roster. “Two-a-days” continued with ESPN’s Herm Edwards as the guest and Nick Vannett as the 21st-most intriguing Seahawk. The segment on Vannett is embedded above. My thoughts are below.

Position: TE
Height/Weight: 6-5, 257
Experience: Rookie
Acquired: Third-round pick, 2016

Overview: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was unequivocal when he said Vannett was “without question” the best blocking tight end in this year’s draft. It was a position that Seattle figured to address with Jimmy Graham coming off a serious knee injury and Luke Willson unsigned beyond this season. And it was a skillset that had plenty of appeal to the Seahawks given how much their offense relies on the run. Seattle considers Vannett to be a prototypical Y tight end, which in football parlance is a big-bodied blocker who can function like a sixth offensive lineman when he’s on the field. With the proliferation of spread offenses in college producing tight ends who are more adept at catching than blocking, players like Vannett have become rare. “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.”

The intrigue: How good is Vannett as a receiver? On one hand, he only caught 55 passes in 37 games over his four seasons at Ohio State. And all the raving from the Seahawks back in April about his blocking left the impression that his receiving skills were nothing special. The Seahawks haven’t been able to see how Vannett can block at this level, with contact not permitted to this point in offseason workouts. But he’s made a strong impression with his receiving. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell used the term “pleasant surprise.” Carroll shared a similar review when asked about Vannett’s receiving skills. “Wow, he’s surprised us. He has surprised us,” Carroll said. “We knew that he could catch the ball and all that, but he’s a very natural catcher. He shows the savvy and the instincts that you hope a guy has. I know Russell (Wilson) has really clicked into him. He picked up on it and is already showing trust and working the ball his way. He’s exceeded our expectations a little bit in only a positive, great way for us. So we’re anxious to see how he does blocking and how we can bring him along. He’s a really equipped athlete. He looks very well schooled at combination blocking and things like that. We need to see how he is when you’ve got to blow guys off the football. We don’t know that and we won’t know that until camp. But he’s made a great impression and we’re really fired up about him.”

2016 outlook: He probably won’t have a major role as a rookie, but a couple factors should help Vannett see the field on offense even as Seattle’s No. 3 tight end. For one, the Seahawks like to use multiple tight ends at once. There’s also Graham’s injury and the likelihood that Seattle will look to limit his snaps, at least early in the season. There are only so many balls to go around in Seattle’s run-first offense, especially for tight ends not named Jimmy Graham. Willson, for instance, only caught 17 passes in 14 games last season. That includes only five catches in the four games Willson started after Graham went down. Assuming Graham and Willson remain available, it will be hard for Vannett to factor much into the passing game in 2016. But if his blocking is as strong as the Seahawks believed it was when they drafted him, then Vannett has a chance to make an impact even without the ball in his hands.

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Most Intriguing Seahawks: No. 21, TE Nick Vannett