The Seahawks maintain tight end Jimmy Graham is healthy and ready to go, but if he can’t start Week 1, who is in position to rise to the occasion?
Jimmy Graham will be healthy Week 1. Jimmy Graham will be healthy Week 1. Jimmy Graham… hopefully if I write it enough for the endless annals of the Internet it will come true. Still, Graham’s availability at this point, despite the sunny outlook on his recovery from a torn patellar tendon by Pete Carroll (aren’t all of his outlooks sunny?), is a work in progress.
We all know that if/when Jimmy Graham is healthy, he will be the unquestioned number one pass-catching tight end for the Seahawks. Let’s assume for the purposes of this article that Graham starts the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to see who’s behind him on the depth chart. Last season, the Seahawks carried three tight ends on their roster. I think it’s fair to assume they’ll roll with three healthy tight ends on the 53-man roster through the 2016 season as well.
Again, if we (realistically or not) assume Graham isn’t healthy to play by Week 1, that leaves three spots open to these six players coming into Training Camp:
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Nick Vannett, Luke Willson, Brandon Cottom, Cooper Helfet, Ronnie Shields, and Brandon Williams. Vannett possesses good blocking and receiving skills in spite of his inexperience at the pro level. He’ll be given plenty of opportunities by Carroll and company this season after the Seahawks happily drafted him last April.
Willson is likely to pick up a spot for his athletic ability and soft hands. He creates mismatches for the defense and could be a weapon for Russell Wilson out of two-or three-tight end formations.
Ronnie Shields and Brandon Williams have outside shots at making the roster under the Pete Carroll regime for the same reason everyone signed to any kind of camp invite has a shot. Carroll and his staff are always looking for under-utilized skill sets and have shown creativity in developing players in the past. Williams and Shields have a total of four NFL receptions combined, so it’s unlikely they’ll steal a spot on the roster.
That leaves Cottom and Helfet as the last options for the third and final tight end position on the depth chart on our hypothetical Jimmy Graham-less Seahawks team. If you’ve read practically any of Justin Floor’s articles here on ECS, you know that Helfet shouldn’t see the field much if possible. Cottom is an interesting player because he is also in a competition for the fullback position on the roster as well. His blocking skills would make him invaluable in big formations should the Seahawks have to roll without Graham.
Willson and Vannett are likely to be on the roster is Graham starts the season on the PUP list. If Graham comes into Week 1 healthy enough to be on the active roster for the Seahawks, let’s hope Cottom supplants Helfet for the third spot.