At this point, you all know they type of player Nick Vannett is. The 6’6” prototype was considered by most to be one of, if not the, best blocking tight end in the 2016 draft. Coupled with soft hands and a huge frame, there is plenty to love.
After redshirting during his first year with the Ohio State Buckeyes, Vannett broke into the rotation the very next year, getting a couple of starts and appearances in every game. Though mostly used as a role blocker, he put up 123 yards as a reserve that season. His sophomore season put him into an almost identical role, and he managed to pick up his first touchdown.
In year three, something clicked. Vannett managed to work his way into the offense to the tune of 220 yards and five touchdowns. Doing a little bit of math (read: wizardry), he scored six points on 26% of every time he touched the football. My touchdown even that good on a 35-yard field playing flag football against a bunch of engineers.
Before his senior year, with his five-touchdown season behind him and finally getting the chance to become a full time starter, many draft pundits projected him to be the top tight end in the draft. A drop in production despite starting every game, however, dropped him into the third round, where the Seattle Seahawks, per usual, picked him out of left field.
Sure, he fits every prototype with his 6’6”, 260 lb. frame. Sure, he’s an accomplished blocker with decent enough hands. But at the same time, he’s as slow as partially-refrigerated molasses and never made too much of an impact on the football field. ProFootballFocus.com (because obviously their opinions are a golden standard) stated their wariness:
So what did the Seahawks see in Vannett that warranted such a high selection? Where does he fit with this team?
The most obvious answer is the most likely one: depth. Jimmy Graham suffered a devastating injury, and no one truly knows if/when he’ll be able to play again. The next in line, Luke Willson, is set to be a free agent after this season. Anthony McCoy has never done much of anything useful, even when he wasn’t busy tearing both of his Achilles Tendons. Cooper Helfet? A decent pass-cather in a pinch, but he doesn’t offer much as blocker.
Imagine this scenario: It’s September 18th, 2016, the second week of the NFL season. The Seahawks are set to take on the Los Angeles Rams. Jimmy Graham is still unavailable to the team. Jamarcus Webb has failed spectacularly in week 1 at right tackle, so the rookie, Germaine Ifedi has vacated right guard to work the left tackle. With no other viable options, and a poor showing at center, Justin Britt moves to right guard, while Patrick Lewis yet again takes over at center. It’s basically an entire new offense line.
I’m setting the over/under on 9 sacks. Any takers?
How about #81 (lined up as an offset H-back) below?
This is where Nick Vannett shines. Though he’d likely never be able to stop Robert Quinn one on one, he could either help Ifedi in the endeavor or potentially handle the other defensive end on the opposite side of the line while Gilliam turned inside to help out the young-blooded interior offensive line with Aaron Donald and Co.
This is where his value lies with this team. Would that be especially helpful on many other teams across the league? No. Not worth the price, at least. With much of the team already set and built, the Seahawks’ top priority this offseason was to find a way to keep Russell Wilson standing upright. A job in which Nick Vannett will be a massive asset.
Even if Jimmy Graham is fully healthy and ready to go by the start of the season, I don’t see any way that Vannett doesn’t make the 53-man roster. He can be just as effective, if not more so, than Luke Willson, and with three more years of cheap club control to boot.