With their first of four scheduled selections on day three of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Seahawks went in a curious selection. With two receiving threat tight ends on the roster, in Jacob Hollister and Greg Olsen, an all-around starter in Will Dissly, plus do-it-all veteran Luke Willson, tight end seemingly wasn’t a big need. If one were to be added, a more in-line blocker seemed likely. Instead, Seattle went with a prospect whose skill set is not replicated on their roster.
In Stanford’s Colby Parkinson, a 6-foot-7, 252-pound tight end, the Seahawks acquired the possession-based target they needed. What does it mean in the short- and long-term?
First, in a crowded position group, Parkinson is going to need to win a spot on the roster. Of the five most prominent tight ends on the roster (the four mentioned at the top and Parkinson), Willson seems easiest to write off. Dissly and Olsen, meanwhile, are locks. There’s a chance Seattle keeps four tight ends, but regardless, Hollister and Parkinson will be battling for snaps and to be active on game days.
Parkinson can immediately find a role in the red zone, where his tremendous size, catch radius, body control and hand strength will provide Russell Wilson with an excellent target to get the ball in the paint. The offense needed a receiver to win above the rim consistently, and they got one—it just happens to be at tight end.
Parkinson’s play strength and body type will leave doubts around whether or not he can become an in-line tight end in personnel groups with just one on the field, but he’ll certainly have a clearly defined role in the long-term. The Seahawks can line Parkinson up off the line of scrimmage in an H-back role to give him a free release; flexed into the slot or out wide in the red zone, or sent him up the seam from the line of scrimmage. Parkinson’s success will come matched up in one-on-ones in the red zone, or downfield up the seam.
If Parkinson is able to develop a better feel for zone defenses and finding space underneath, he can be a three-level receiving threat. Olsen’s mentorship of Seattle’s fourth-round pick could prove to be worth the price of the veteran’s contract alone.
Another thought on Colby Parkinson: Can't overstate the impact Greg Olsen will have on him.— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) April 25, 2020
Olsen is insanely good at finding the soft spot vs zone, whether it's over the top or sitting underneath. If Parkinson can improve that part of his game he can be a three level threat https://t.co/ViK0u6NWIp
As long as the Seahawks are aware of, and play into, Parkinson’s strengths, his floor should not be too low. His physical tools as a receiver are already at a place of value, whether he is high-pointing the football in the end zone, boxing defenders out just past the first down marker, or working the seam. If he doesn’t refine his ability as a route runner or become a more aggressive blocker, there will still be a role for him—though it could become difficult to justify keeping him past his rookie deal.
This is where it gets exciting. Parkinson’s ceiling starts as one of the game’s best touchdown makers, a player who becomes the defense’s focal point every time their opposition arrives in the red zone. With varied releases, Parkinson could theoretically line up in-line, in the slot and out wide—finding mismatches at each spot while attacking defenses vertically or underneath. Parkinson’s ceiling would see him become a foundational piece of the receiving group, alongside Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
Colby Parkinson caught *everything* with shoddy QB play. His size, catch radius and hands (his focus at the catch point is GREAT) playing with Russell Wilson has the potential to be pretty damn good pic.twitter.com/EO8hGHCKRi— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) April 25, 2020
Seattle doesn’t hold too strict of guidelines at tight end, with the emphasis placed on agility drills (short shuttle and three cone). Parkinson’s three cone is right in line, while his short shuttle is a touch slow. Parkinson’s physicality at the catch point, however, can help to mitigate a lack of agility in his movement.
Though the Seahawks did not need to add a tight end in the draft, they managed to make an addition there without replicating any of the existing players’ skill sets. Parkinson’s size and ability is tantalizing, and the team certainly has a plan for how to best deploy him.