George Fant was fun last season. There’s no doubt. Yet the right tackle’s move to tight end was an act of necessity. It was a forced switch after Will Dissly tore his patellar tendon in the first quarter of the Week 4 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. Dissly’s injury created a gaping chasm at the tight end spot, because the Seattle Seahawks’ offense requires a sound blocker at the position. Nick Vannett wasn’t that, hence Fant’s transformation. Dissly’s blocking ability is at the level of an offensive linemen. However, his route running and catching ability far exceeds that of an o-lineman. Despite a 4.87 forty-yard dash he experienced little difficulty getting open, emerging as an early weapon for Russell Wilson. Dissly put up 156 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns in 3 and a bit games.
While Fant had little trouble blocking at Dissly’s level, he couldn’t come close to replicating the rookie’s receiving skill. There was the hilarious catch in the flat and face plant into the turf against the Green Bay Packers. And that was it. A receiver he is not, and nor should he be.
The rest of the tight end group featured Ed Dickson and Nick Vannett. It was distinctly light, with both players whiffing on crucial blocks numerous times. That crack toss Seattle likes to run? Yeah, it needs a reliable crack-back guy.
Dissly’s injury is a tricky one to recover from. His work ethic is encouraging:
We've witnessed the same routine the last few weeks. Seahawks practice ends, the players leave the field and then Will Dissly catches passes by himself on the jugs machine. Quietly working towards 2019.— Mike Vorel (@mikevorel) December 27, 2018
But, though his game was never predicated on explosion or long speed, Dissly faces a difficult route to being fully healthy for the start of 2019. The solution at tight end, or at least some more critical depth at the position, could be found in the draft.
The Seahawks may want to double down on a big blocking tight end who can also catch. If Dissly is 100% next season, then it will be a bonus of having two versatile people movers. If Dissly is banged up, then it will be more welcome. Introducing West Virginia tight end Trevon Wesco. The big man is listed at 6’4, 268 lbs. (Dissly measured in at 6’4, 262 lbs at the NFL combine)
Wesco was a JUCO recruit, having spent two years at Lackawanna College. The Mountaineers were Wesco’s home-state team and the prospect prepped at Musselman High—Inwood, W.V. In high school, Wesco was also an All-State basketball player—a fact you can expect to hear over, and over, and over again if he so much as sniffs the football in the NFL.
Wesco was good at getting the ball in college, at least for a WVU tight end. Against TCU, he led West Virginia in receiving yards. That was the first time since 2002 that a tight end had accomplished the feat in gold and blue, plus Wesco’s 86 yards dwarfed Josh Bailey’s 35 yards of 12 years ago.
It’s Wesco’s domination of the Horned Frogs that we’re going to focus on. The game encapsulated his abilities and the role he can play in the pros. Despite a career-high game total, afterwards Wesco chose to talk about his selfless attitude:
“I just try to help my team win in any way possible. I do whatever they tell me to do. I just try to do it to the best of my ability.”
Nothing demonstrates Wesco’s team-first approach more than his blocking, the element to his game that will have alerted Seattle’s Front Office. Be it pancaking the backside EDGE on an inside zone split lead from H-back or sticking to a mauling in-line down block, he rocked defenders while doing it all.
The article will focus on Wesco's most dominant game of his WVU career. His performance against TCU encapsulated what the versatile, big tight end can do at the next level.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 15, 2019
Check out the 2019 Senior Bowl invitee's run blocking. He's a willing people mover that suits Seattle's ID pic.twitter.com/iPCKVLhFUI
The tight end could do with sinking more to gain greater power, but he’s still a dangerous and willing defender dominator that suits the Seahawks’ identity perfectly. He can also be trusted to stay in and pass protect; this is key for Brian Schottenheimer’s max-protect, two-route combination, play-action deep shots.
West Virginia struggled to run the rock from 10 personnel but switching to 11 personnel (getting Wesco involved) saw the rushing attack improve. The Mountaineers coaches showed great schematic faith in the tight end, essentially playing him like a 6th offensive linemen at times.
Take this play from WVU’s victory over Texas. From H-back, Wesco effectively became the backside tackle on the inside zone run. This allowed the rest of the line to shift over to the left and climb more aggressively, creating an unbalanced effect for the defensive front to deal with.
After drafting Dissly, John Schneider remarked that he couldn’t hear the ball hit his hands. Wesco appears to have similarly supple and reliable paws. This was just the second score of his career, yet he executed like a complete natural.
The 23-year-old aligned as a wingback. The two routes ahead of Wesco ran inwards, sucking the defensive backs inside. Gary Patterson is one of the great pioneers of defensive matching coverage. But on this play the rotated down safety messed up and left Patterson looking like a pattern matching rookie.
With the cornerback squeezing the inwards-bending route of #1, no defender ran back with the wheel of Wesco. The route combination caused the blown coverage. With two defenders in the flat, TCU was left with nobody on the deep sideline for the slightly delayed vertical nature of the wheel. Wesco was butt-naked exposed, and he flashed surprising long speed in the open-field.
He hauled in his career-long 32-yard reception in testing circumstances, which Wesco illustrated to the media after the victory:
“The crazy thing was I couldn’t see the ball. I didn’t see the ball until the last second because of the sun…I just saw a little black spot come to my hand at the last second.”
Supple paws indeed.
Wesco was a big reason for tight ends finally becoming a factor in the West Virginia attack.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 15, 2019
For such a large player (listed at 6-4, 268lbs) he really can SHIFT.
This wheel from trips bunch behind two posts from Jake Spavital was a nice design that broke TCU's matching coverage pic.twitter.com/aphgP9FpT2
Multipurpose wiggle and shift
Wesco really can shift. He’s a bit like a runaway train, or a truck with severe brake failure. The difference is the surprising wiggle that he possesses; he’s sneaky elusive. He also serves multiple purposes.
In the Big 12, defensive coordinators are desperate to stop the spread and run a ton of three-safety looks. Wesco’s multiple performance led to a question over whether he was a partial antidote to what defensive schemers are trying to do. Then-offensive coordinator and current-Texas State head coach Jake Spavital provided an illuminating response:
“If you’re gonna play a [safety] at that level, he’s gotta come from a distance and stop the run. And then when they start filling hard on the run, we can utilize Wesco and pop pass it to him.”
Seattle could do this too.
Wesco’s true all-round nature demands defensive respect. His effective blocking means defenses must play honest. It’s not a ‘tell’ to see Wesco lined up at tight end. Nothing demonstrated his “pop pass” potential better than his seam catch on this Run-Pass Option play.
The jet motion fake and inside zone action occupied the linebackers. In addition, Spavital spotted that TCU’s reaction to jet was to rotate the safety away from the motion to the deep middle of the field and have the opposite safety come down on the run.
This meant that Wesco was uncovered right down the seam. Grier read this at the mesh point and pulled the ball from the running back. Wesco caught the ball, quickly transitioned into a runner and made the first tackler miss for a 23-yard gain.
Wesco's 86-yard game was the first time in 16 years (Josh Bailey 35 yards against Miami) that a tight end led WVU's O in receiving yards.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 15, 2019
A nice jet IZ RPO sprung Wesco open up the seam, with Will Grier reading at the mesh point. Wesco showed nice wiggle to miss the first tackle pic.twitter.com/2aQbgDkhp1
YAC and RAC
Wesco will bully smaller defensive backs. Arm tackles will be punished. Poor angles will be wrecked. Sound form tackles will be obliterated. This all stems from a philosophy learned from the tight end/fullback coach at West Virginia:
“Coach Gerberry preaches to me every week. ‘Don’t go down for nobody’. ‘Don’t get tackled’. That’s what he tells our room. So that’s what I try to do.”
On this combo/RPO play, called Zone Right/63 left, Wesco ran into the flat, opposite the flow of the zone run. Grier was tasked with reading the flat defender, who left Wesco open while fitting the run. The trips alignment gave Wesco two blockers, so he was unchallenged for roughly four yards.
But then Wesco’s ability to punish pursuing defenders became apparent. The first angle was poor; Wesco’s wiggle cut past it. The second tackling attempt was all arm; Wesco bounced through it. The third was a lot of helmet; Wesco’s vicious shoulder caused PAINT CHIPS TO FLY. He wanted that contact. His YAC and RAC turned what could have been a second down into a first and significantly more.
Wesco plays tough and is an absolute load to bring down. This brings serious YAC potential.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 15, 2019
Check out this catch in the flat on this combo/RPO play. This is Zone Right/63 Left, Grier reading the flat defender.
Yes! Those are paint chips flying off the poor defender's helmet! pic.twitter.com/WsJxxfZzaD
Just look at this!
Paint chips were scattered everywhere from the helmet of the TCU defender who Trevon Wesco blew up when rumbling up the WVU sidelines with a 4th quarter catch. I took this pic after several of them were picked up. pic.twitter.com/C5gbqE8L35— Jed Drenning (@TheSignalCaller) November 11, 2018
The play looks a lot like Vannett’s goalline touchdown versus the Kansas City Chiefs:
TOUCHDOWN SEAHAWKS!!!— Ash Vanderbilt (@AshVanderbilt) December 24, 2018
TE Nick Vannett @N_Vannett81 with the TD reception!
Seahawks Lead 14-10#GoHawks! #SundayNightFootball #SeattleSeahawks #Seattle #NFL #Seahawks #12s #SEAvsKC #KCvsSEA #Hawks pic.twitter.com/kWV94BPqFn
Strong hands and play strength
Wesco’s play strength is a clear positive, and it extends to strong hands too. This was showcased on a fourth-quarter conversion Wesco had no business in making.
Grier wanted Wesco’s dig route the entire play, staring his target down badly. This gave TCU a chance to key on the pass. Despite having a defender draped over him, Wesco made the catch with strong hands positioned away from his frame.
Wesco then did well to secure the football, and then hauled that defender all the way to the first down marker. It took three TCU players to eventually bring the leg-churning power down. He somehow picked up a new set of downs on 2nd and 7.
TCU struggled with the absolute unit.— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) January 15, 2019
Grier stared Wesco down, yet the TE managed to make the catch in traffic showing strong hands away from his frame.
Then look at this play strength and leg churn from the former Mountaineer! He hauled 3 with him for the 1st on 2nd & 7! pic.twitter.com/oCCYJMcIKX
A point that will be oft-repeated in Draft on tape is that the Seahawks lack resources. They currently only have: Round 1 Pick 21; Round 3 Pick 84; Round 4 Pick 116; and Round 5 Pick 148. Multiple trade backs will happen, in addition to the now customary first-round trade down from John Schneider.
The promising news is that the league will sleep on blocking tight ends who run slow and have low production. Just look at Dissly being taken in the 4th round. Wesco also had little production (373 career receiving yards) which was partially due to the heavy 10 personnel nature of West Virginia’s Air Raid. We will have to wait to see how he tests, but I imagine his forty will be similar to Dissly’s. That makes him a Day 3 pick.
It’s Wesco’s tape, though, that shows many desirable traits. Schneider attended the Oklahoma v West Virginia game, possibly to get a closer look at Kyler Murray. But you must think that Wesco was on his watchlist too.
Tricky match-up and the Senior Bowl
I long campaigned for Wesco’s spot at the 2019 Senior Bowl, and Jim Nagy’s response to me is another highlighter of the versatility Wesco brings to an offense.
We would want Wesco to play some FB down here. I like the player.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) November 23, 2018
In football, there’s lots of talk over chess pieces. But that’s more reserved for flashier players like hybrid safety/outside linebacker-types. Wesco, though, is a player who can be moved all over the field. He can play in-line, H-back, fullback and as a big slot. Combined with Dissly, this would pose troubling questions for defenses. For instance, lining them up both in the backfield and then shifting them into a stack to crackback for a toss.
Wesco was tricky for college defenses, as Spavital explained:
“He causes so many problems in the run game and now he’s going to be a threat on the perimeter where defenses have to find out where he’s at on the field because he’s being efficient catching it.”
Since my interaction with Nagy, Wesco did receive a Senior Bowl invite (listed as a running back). I now have the chance to watch the absolute unit participate in valuable drills. As a member of the South Team, Wesco will be coached by Kyle Shanahan. This is ideal for Wesco given how Shanahan has managed to utilize George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk at San Francisco.
I’m most interested to see how Wesco does in run skellies against the best senior linebackers and defensive linemen in the country. His ability to separate will also be under my scrutiny. I expect his soft hands and sneaky movement skills will surprise many evaluators. I’ll report back with a Draft on tape, live from Mobile, next week.