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No need for Gronk, Kittle or Kelce when you suit up Will Dissly

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If you CAN suit him up

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
don’t try him with a sorry cornerback
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

So, Rob Gronkowski is coming out of retirement to rejoin Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, after the teams worked out compensation?

So, George Kittle, a steal of the 2017 draft at 5.146, continues to thrive in San Francisco, and will be an immensely likable thorn in the Seattle Seahawks’ plumage for most of the coming decade?

So, Travis Kelce is nigh unstoppable in the Chiefs offense?

So? The Seahawks have Will Dissly.

Why do you laugh? He is a weapon equal to both Gronkowski and Kittle. Even Jimmy Graham and Travis Kelce. When healthy. And that’s been the only problem for the big Seattle target: he doesn’t play enough.

When Dissly does suit up, he’s as productive as the best tight ends in the game. Prefaced by all the small sample caveats you can dream up, and a few extra if makes you feel better, I have collected five key stats for five men whose company you’d want to be in, as an NFL tight end. One is the Seahawks’ own TE1.

(The leader in each category is in bold.)

Active Elite TE

Player Catch% Yds/Rec Yds/Target TD share of targets TD/game
Player Catch% Yds/Rec Yds/Target TD share of targets TD/game
R. Gronkowski 65.6 15.1 9.9 10 0.69
G. Kittle 70.6 13.6 9.6 5.8 0.27
J. Graham 64.3 12.1 7.8 7.4 0.48
T. Kelce 70.9 12.8 9 7.3 0.38
W. Dissly 75.6 13.5 10.2 14.6 0.6

The numbers used above aren’t from 2019, or any other single season — they’re career marks. Dissly is ahead of Kittle in every column except yards/reception, where he trails the 49er by 0.1 yards. Oh no, oh goodness, how will he ever catch up

The Husky Seahawk is a comparable threat to Gronkowski in scoring and might have better hands. Graham and Kelce are statistical afterthoughts.

And lest we not forget, Dissly was lauded originally for his blocking. He’s no slouch on the line. He’s probably an emergency tackle, or at least he should be.

After a second sample size disclaimer, which is happening right now, and it’s done, I’d like to project into 16 games what Dissly has done in 9. He’s appeared in 10, but two of them were cut short by halftime with injuries.

He’d have a line of 55 catches on 73 targets for 743 yards and 11 TD. It’s a little frightening how good he was as a rookie split across two seasons. Surely Gronkowski, Kittle, Graham and Kelce had nice debuts, though. Let’s take Dissly’s 16-game projection and crack open another table, plus maybe some heads.

Elite TE Rookie Seasons

Player Targets Receptions Catch% Yards Yards/Target TD
Player Targets Receptions Catch% Yards Yards/Target TD
R. Gronkowski 59 42 71.2 546 9.3 10
G. Kittle 63 43 68.3 515 8.2 2
J. Graham 44 31 70.5 356 8.1 5
T. Kelce 87 67 77 862 9.9 5
W. Dissly (proj.) 73 55 75.6 743 10.2 11

Health is a skill, they say. But what if it isn’t, and Dissly has just gotten unlucky thus far? What if he’s a star, and a top-five tight end, and nobody knows it yet? What if he’s better than Kittle? It’s not a stupid question, just a hopeful one, doused in homerism, for which I offer no apology.

As a wrap-up food-for-thought point, Dissly’s injuries may well work in his favor, assuming a full recovery. How so? Because he’s spent less than a season on the field but has enjoyed the benefit of a rookie minicamp, training camp, and two additional offseasons since. He’s not a rookie. He’s practically a veteran with the playbook, with his quarterback who adores him (based on targets) and with his coaches, who already know how to put him in position to succeed.

Uncle Will has been through the growing pains and the pain pains. He’s ready to Gronk around a Kittle bit, and what the Kel—ce what happens.

A full year of Dissly would be a revelation to the league at large and a way to keep the Seahawks offense humming at peak efficiency. Where there is no ceiling to what they can accomplish. The last time the Seahawks had a legitimate all-around tight end they went a long, long ways. The longest way, with the most confetti.