The 2020 Seattle Seahawks tight ends are everything. They could be nothing too, but that’s just a subset part of everything, because every outcome is on the table, from irrelevance to best-in-the-league status.
After the conclusion of a draft all our sports psyches needed, the Seahawks TE room boasts a collection of former stars, journeymen, rookies and question marks. It’s the most cavernous room you’ve ever seen — the ceiling is as high as the floor is low.
Who lives in it?
The Predictable Vets
As of right now (and I’m aware the offseason is ongoing and incomplete and #ClowneyWatch II: 5-Tech Bugaloo is in full effect), all of two Seattle tight ends will come to camp without the specters of advanced age, questionable health or inexperience hanging around.
Luke Willson: John Schneider has now added him to the roster three times — once in the 2013 draft, once during the 2019 season as a free agent, and now again with a new contract. The Canadian fan favorite can no longer rely on his rookie-year 4.51 speed to outrun linebackers and elude the occasional defensive back, but he makes up for that with veteranosity and familiarity with Russell Wilson. And with the hair. You asked about the hair, right?
Colby Parkinson, the new guy, in a glorious coincidence, also has a certain je ne sais coif.
[Fun fact not related to hair: Willson and Wilson are the only active Seahawks who were on the field for the final offensive play of Super Bowl XLIX.]
Jacob Hollister: tendered last month, he inherited a load of red-zone targets after Will Dissly exited the picture, abruptly and rudely, in Week 6 last season.
However, Hollister and Willson probably won’t make or break Seattle’s TE room. They’re there for their thereness. Much, much more hinges on...
Greg Olsen: You’ll remember him as either the guy the LOB declined to cover in the fourth quarter at home in 2014 —
— or possibly the fantasy football choice you used to happily settle for after Gronk and Kelce went off the board in the fourth round.
Olsen will be 35 when the season starts, if it starts. He hasn’t been reliable from a health standpoint in the last three years, with just 10 games played on average. But he didn’t miss a game for nine seasons in a row. He gets in the end zone (59 career touchdowns) and he’s accustomed to winning. If he appears in more than half the games, he’ll cause defenses some problems. He was a first-down machine in 2014-2016, with 50 or more every season. Only — that was so very long ago, in NFL terms.
Olsen is the wildest of wild cards. Rivaled perhaps only by the next name on the list.
Will Dissly: Question is, will Will, health willing, impose his, ahem, will on NFL defenses again before long? Because that’s what he does when he plays. Nobody scores touchdowns at a more frenetic pace than Dissly — every 5.2 receptions! — and nobody has softer hands — 75.6 catch rate! — but with only eight games under his belt, the track record tantalizes more than it reassures.
Imagine a reality in which Olsen and Dissly both make it to January in one piece, though. And we’ll get to that daydream, after a quick nod to the incoming rookies.
The Young Newcomers
Colby Parkinson: The fourth-rounder out of Stanford is more than a beefy/brainy Charlie Whitehurst. Sam Gold has your mini-breakdown right here.
Here's an example of Colby Parkinson's skill-set. He can run seam and fade routes and has good body control. He uses his hands well to snag the ball out of the air. #Seahawks pic.twitter.com/IRlIouLI7b— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) April 25, 2020
and the rest of your highlights are here, down the hall on another FG post.
It’s impossible to think “Stanford Tight End” without good associations. Zach Ertz is the latest example, but did you know the Cardinal put the most TE in the NFL draft throughout the decade of the 2010’s? Seven of them.
Probably my favorite thing I read about Parkinson all weekend was off the quill of Alistair Corp:
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.
He’s 6-7, 252 pounds. He’ll see his share of red zone targets.
Technically, the newest drafted Seahawk is Stephen Sullivan. Pete Carroll and Schneider loved him so much they traded back into the draft to nab him before the chaos of undrafted free agency had a chance to banish him to the Rams or Niners, or some other place without a franchise quarterback. You’re welcome, Steve.
Sullivan’s a converted wide receiver so it’s not out of the question he competes for WR4 or WR5 so he can spend time towering over opposing teeny weeny cornerbacks.
The aggressiveness the front office displayed these last few weeks in spending a fourth-rounder, a 2021 sixth, a free-agent contract and a tender offer all on tight ends is bound to remind a tuned-in Seattle observer of all the moves to acquire running back talent after the 2017 season. Schneider and Carroll just plain ran out of ball carriers and made sure it wouldn’t happen again. Feels like that era redux, only with big tall targets instead.
And now the team sits on six, count ‘em, six TE who could all be starters in their own way, either immediately or in the near future. 2020 is begging to be the year of the tight end for the Seahawks. There are a number of ways it could play out, but the more I ruminate (roominate?), four main scenarios materialize.
A) The top-line starters stay healthy
There’s nothing wrong with optimism. Not for a couple paragraphs.
Dissly completes his rehab without a hitch and is ready for Week 1. He continues on the tear he started in 2018, and 2019, only he doesn’t get cut down by fate. Olsen has plenty left in the tank, and rotates in with exactly enough snaps to finish drives and exactly enough to preserve his grandfatherly knees.
Willson splits time as a respectable deep threat and a nasty H-back. Hollister doesn’t have a huge role after camp, so he gets traded for the sixth that brought Sullivan in — no harm, no foul. The only drawback is that the rookies don’t get a lot of snaps. Parkinson starts once at home, to spell Dissly, and actually catches a goal-line fade on the first try. He pancakes enough pass rushers to open his own iHOP, but doesn’t, because he has class.
In the red zone, defenses have insufficient answers for Seattle’s 12 personnel packages. The Seahawks finish top-5 in scoring and top-3 in red zone efficiency. George Kittle demands a trade to Seattle. (OK, the last one is bullshit, but everything else is legit.)
B) The big names falter but everyone else picks up the slack
Could happen for age or injury or regression issues. Dissly doesn’t come back at 100 percent, maybe at all. Olsen doesn’t last, and if he does, the tank is mostly empty.
Fortunately, signing Willson turns out to be prescient; he produces like it’s 2014, 16.5 yards a catch and three scores. Then, thrust in a semi-starting role, Parkinson or Sullivan explodes on to the scene, picking up right where Dissly left off in an offense designed to feature tight ends. Hollister holds down the fort and Wilson leads the non-Patrick-Mahomes league in touchdown passes. The Seahawks offense misses no beats from 2019 to go along with a slightly improved defense, and we’re back in the playoffs with 11 or 12 wins.
(Extra-credit reading is this post from 2018 by former Field Gulls contributor Jacob Stevens on the historical role of the TE in a Brian Schottenheimer offense.)
C) The starters underwhelm but the backup plan kicks into gear
and provides Seattle with a league average TE room. Nothing special, but nothing bad. The offense is fine. Scenario C is boring, but you can see it happening, can’t you?
Scenario D, D for Doom, must be addressed, however, and it is as forbidding as it is likely.
D) The guys we’re counting on falter as before, and the replacements do not step up. Sadface.
Because as much as certain coaches like to preach “Next Man Up,” there’s a reason the next man was not the first man, and depth cannot always be counted on. After Dissly and Olsen fall by the wayside, the seven seasons on Willson’s body push him over a physical cliff. Sullivan doesn’t even make the team and Parkinson is serviceable but no more. It’s hard to make an impact as a rookie. (Jimmy Graham had 356 yards his first year.) Hollister’s playing time reflects his re-promotion to TE1 and Schneider spends another future draft pick to pry away someone else to help hold down the fort until 2021, when hope refreshes.
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The scenarios above might be disparate, to put it mildly, but the collection of skills the Seahawks have assembled is full of purpose. Sullivan is the project, who lacks only seasoning to complement his physical gifts. Parkinson brings the height and the pedigree, and isn’t fragile or timid. Willson is reliable and willing to do all the dirty work. Olsen is a receiver first and not known for his blocking, but that’s all right because for all the praise Dissly garners for spending quality time in the end zone with the football, he’s a hell of a blocker.
Right now, the TE room has everything, and one of those everythings is redundancy. If Seattle needs a particular set of skills for a particular situation, that tight end is on the roster, ready to come in. Or his replacement is available, too. Unless we’re swirling in the depths of Scenario D.
Since you, the crowd, know the future as well as anyone, have a crack at it.
Which Seahawks tight end will have the best season? Define "best" any way you’d like.
This poll is closed