The loss of tight ends Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson in free agency have left a gaping hole in the Seattle Seahawks offense. Gone are their combined 72 receptions, 673 yards and 14 touchdowns from 2017. Entering training camp, there are plenty of questions about who will step up and fill the void left in the middle of the field. Now that OTAs are underway, we’ll break down Seattle’s options at the tight end position.
#81 Nick Vannett, 6’6″ 261 pounds:
After playing just 57 snaps in his rookie season with the Seahawks, Nick Vannett was expected to make a big jump in 2017 and push Luke Willson for the number two tight end job. Though Vannett was unable to beat out Willson for the backup spot to Jimmy Graham, he did see the field quite a bit more in his second year. Vannett played almost 26 percent (278 snaps) of Seattle’s total offensive plays compared to Willson’s 35 percent (378 snaps). Now, with both Graham and Willson moving on, expect to see another big increase in Vannett’s play-share. A competent blocker during his time at both Ohio State and Seattle, Nick has flashed the ability to contribute in the passing game as well. Last year Vannett snared 12 of 15 targets for 124 yards and one touchdown. According to his Instagram, Vannett has used the offseason wisely. This post shows Nick working hard to build a rapport with quarterback Russell Wilson in California.
Vannett should be a lock for the number two spot in 2018 and will battle with Ed Dickson for the starting job in training camp.
#84 Ed Dickson, 6’4″ 255 pounds:
Dickson was one of the Seahawks’ big offseason additions after signing a three-year deal worth up to $14 million. Spending his last four years with the Carolina Panthers, Dickson was regarded as one of the better pass-blocking tight ends in the league. Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded him out as the number one pass-blocker at his position for 2017. Speaking to 710 ESPN Seattle after signing his new contract, Dickson spoke about his skill-set.
“I’m a blocker first,” Dickson said. “I pride myself (on it). When I came out of college, they talked about how I was a pass catcher. I love to be a pass catcher, but I consider myself an all-around tight end. I’m not afraid to stick my nose in there and block for my running backs, and whoever, even Russell on the couple runs that he’s got.”
That ability to stay in-line and block a defensive end or linebacker will be a major boost for the Seahawks when Russell Wilson drops back to pass. Just don’t expect Dickson to help much in the run game, as PFF graded Dickson the 56th ranked run blocking tight end in 2017. By comparison, Jimmy Graham was ranked 34th, and Luke Willson was 26th. Dickson’s not likely to be much of a receiver for Seattle either. The 30-year-old tight end hasn’t posted more than 30 receptions since 2011.
The negatives aside, Dickson provides a veteran presence and is a solid enough all-around player to have a shot at the starting job this year. The Seahawks liked Ed enough to fully guarantee the first year of his contract, so expect him to see the field quite a bit, especially on passing downs.
#88 Will Dissly, 6’4″ 265 pounds:
Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll has said he wants to be more effective running the ball this year. The drafting of Will Dissly out of the University of Washington will definitely help to accomplish that. A former starting defensive tackle for the Huskies, Dissly was asked to make the switch to tight end prior to UW’s 2015 Bowl Game. The move stuck. Dissly ended up starting five games at tight end in 2016 and eleven more as a senior. A dominant in-line blocker, Dissly graded out as PFF’s 20th-ranked collegiate run-blocking tight end in 2017 (out of 263!). Still developing as a route runner (only 25 career receptions), Will has been the surprise of OTAs so far, showing off impressive speed and hands. For a team wanting to return to their power-running roots, Dissly could bring just the punch they need. With impressive strength, grit and work ethic, Will’s forte is opening up lanes in the running game. Likely the best run-blocking tight end on the roster since Zach Miller, Dissly is a lock as the third tight end. He should get plenty of snaps in power and two tight end sets.
— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) May 22, 2018
#46 Tyrone Swoopes, 6’4″ 254 pounds:
A dual-threat quarterback for the University of Texas, Swoopes made the switch to tight end prior to the 2017 NFL Draft. After not being selected, Tyrone signed with Seattle as an undrafted free-agent. A size/speed prospect, Swoopes had 24 career rushing touchdowns for the Longhorns and impressed with a 4.65-40 at his Pro Day. While still adjusting to his new position, Tyrone posted seven receptions for 69 yards in four preseason games with Seattle. Not able to find a roster spot for him, the Seahawks released Swoopes on the final cutdown to 53 players. He ended up clearing waivers and rejoined the team on their practice squad. Tyrone was promoted to the active roster in week 17 but failed to record a catch. Still developing, Swoopes is probably a year away from contributing. Another stint on the practice squad is likely.
#69 Tyler Ott, 6’3″ 253 pounds:
Technically listed on the depth chart as a tight end, Ott is nothing more than the Seahawks’ long-snapper.
#86 Clayton Wilson, 6’4″ 242 pounds:
Another undrafted free-agent signing, Wilson comes to Seattle following a career at Division II Northwest Missouri State. With 80 career receptions, Wilson was the sixth player to sign with the Seahawks following rookie minicamp tryouts. Unlikely to create a Wilson-to-Wilson combination, Clayton faces a logjam in the depth chart ahead of him. A likely training camp cut.