When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Nick Vannett in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the team was thrilled to have added the “best blocking tight end since Zach Miller“. However, Vannett has yet to carve out a true role for the team, and this offseason saw the Hawks add two blocking tight ends to the roster, leading to questions about Vannett’s future.
First, the team moved quickly to sign Ed Dickson, an accomplished pass blocking tight end, in free agency. That done, they then moved on to the draft where they used their fourth round pick on Will Dissly out of the University of Washington. Dissly, much like Vannett two years prior, has been advertised as the best blocking tight end since Zach Miller. That again brings things back to where Vannett’s future could be in question.
In addition to Dissly and Dickson, the Seahawks also have Tyrone Swoopes and the newly signed Clayton Wilson at the tight end position. The team has traditionally only carried three tight ends, so what are the odds that either Wilson or Swoopes beats out Vannett? What could either of those two bring that Vannett doesn’t have? The answer to that question may be as simple as height. Or rather, Vannett may simply be taller than new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer prefers.
While that may sound like a ridiculous reason at first, there’s actually some logic behind it once you sit down and consider that Schottenheimer likes to use his tight ends in more of a hybrid tight end-fullback role. With that being the case, most fullbacks are not nearly as tall as Vannett for the simple reason that it’s easy for a fullback to block when they get low, and it’s typically easier for shorter players to get lower when blocking.
Obviously the Seahawks used Luke Willson as a fullback at times in recent seasons, but there’s a simple explanation for the difference. In years past they have run a zone blocking scheme in which Willson was asked more often to cut block, as opposed to 2018 when the team is expected to use more power blocking. As such, with the new scheme comes new physical requirements for the personnel.
Looking at the tight end position from nothing more than the perspective of height, here are the current tight ends on the Seahawks roster along with their height and weight.
Vannett is obviously the tallest tight end on the roster by nearly two inches. In addition, when he is compared to the tight ends Schottenheimer has used during his times as an offensive coordinator with the New York Jets and the then-St.-Louis-but-now Los Angeles Rams, we see that Vannett is the tallest of any tight end that has played in a Schottenheimer offense in the NFL.
There we see the only true tight ends even close to Vannett’s height are Bubba Franks and Jared Cook. Franks played part of the 2008 season at the tail end of his NFL career for Schottenheimer, and Cook was reunited with Jeff Fisher, for whom he had played when Fisher coached the Tennessee Titans.
There are a couple of other names in that list who are close, such as Wayne Hunter, Vlad Ducasse and Caleb Schlauderaff, but a quick glance at the weight of those players shows that these gentlemen are actually offensive linemen that Schottenheimer simply deployed as tight ends at times, rather than actual every down tight ends.
Thus, the question that will be out there come training camp is whether Vannett is simply too tall to perform the tasks that will be asked of him in the new Seahawks offense. The answer to that won’t be known until the team hits the field in August, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on.