Ohio State hasn't typically had a very tight end friendly offense, with one draft expert labeling Nick Vannett as "underused" by the Buckeyes, but someone who was comfortable as a motion receiver with aggressive blocking ability. Vannett only recorded 19 catches during the 2015 season, for 162 yards. Coming off a five touchdown season, the offense's quarterback struggles resulted in a senior year without a stop in the endzone.
Ohio State TE Nick Vannett: 6056, 256 lbs, 10 hands, 3314 arms. Impressive physique. Has a chance to emerge in weak TE group this week.— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) January 26, 2016
Add to this, someone comparing his build to that of NFL super star Rob Gronkowski, and you're doing something right.
Experts and analysts weren't shy about their pleasant surprise of Vannett on the practice field. One went so far as to say the tight end is "physically imposing" showing skills on the catch points and had good blocks during team drills.
Nick Vannett had an awesome day of practice Tuesday. I'd expect that to continue. His comfort as a receiver, even contested, stood out.— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 27, 2016
Dan Brugler of CBS Sports pointed out Vannett's skillset during the first practice, "He doesn't have much shake at the top of routes to create separation, but with his strong hands and focus to finish contested catches, it didn't matter. While this isn't a deep tight end draft class, Vannett could separate himself as the top senior prospect at the position and worthy mid-round pick."
No way.... Guess who.... Yep, OSU TE Nick Vanett for ANOTHER catch and TD...this time on deep corner route for 15 YDs in back of EZ— Luke Inman (@Luke_Spinman) January 28, 2016
He did have a run-in with his former teammate Tyvis Powell on the practice field, and it didn't exactly go well for the tight end.
Nice play by Tyvis Powell to close on a pass in front of Nick Vannett to pick off a Cody Kessler pass in the end zone.— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) January 28, 2016
Vannett did a lot to add to his draft stock during the week of practice, talking to several teams and highlighting how productive he can be in the red zone. During 7-on-7 drills, Vannett made the defense look incompetent, going for four touchdowns in a row, overtop and around defenders.
Underrated in my book? TE Nick Vannett of Ohio St. - Blocks, good routes, catches well. Eager to see more of Stanford G J. Garnett vs. speed— Charles Davis (@CFD22) January 27, 2016
Vannett spoke in depth with the Los Angeles Rams after practice this week, and gave good insight into where he's been and where he wants to go. He didn't have many receptions his senior season, but did record a memorable touchdown catch during the National Championship that gave Ohio State it's first lead. He really wanted to make sure scouts were able to see his catching ability, with such limited film from 2015.
"I didn't get many of those opportunities at Ohio State and I just wanted to show everything that I'm good at -- show the real Nick Vannett," he said to the Rams. "And I think I put that on display this whole week."
After practice on Day 2, a day in which the tight end had four straight touchdown catches in four snaps, Vannett was very confident with his ability. "I feel like I've always been a red-zone threat -- just throw it up, I'll go get it," Vannett said after practice, per the Rams. "I'll make a play."
Vannett was used primarily as a blocker at for the Buckeyes, but those skills have come in handy as he's been able to successfully take on defensive lineman in the run game.
"I did a lot of that at Ohio State so I kind of grew to like it," Vannett said, according to the Rams. "I get a great feeling just knowing that I made a key block and sprung the run on that play. I get just as good a feeling from doing that than I do making plays in the pass game. So I enjoy doing both and I feel like that's going to add more value to me, being able to do those things."
Once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye, and Vannett knows how fortunate he and his former teammates are to have so many of them invited to participate in the coveted Senior Bowl. "It just shows the type of players that we have. We have ball players at Ohio State and we were well represented out here. I think we all did really well this whole week. And it's just awesome to kind of put it on for back home."
The new Rams spent a lot of time with Vannett after practice, conducting a pretty detailed interview and even noted the tight ends lure to teams as a red-zone specialist; showing "athleticism, an ability to get open, and a penchant for making tough catches in tight windows".
Earlier in the week, Vannett also met with the Houston Texans, who are in need a big halfback to add to their roster, and is considering the tight end as a mid-round pick due to his versatility to line up as H-Back, inline tight end, and split out as a receiver.
With a good performance on Saturday in the Senior Bowl, followed by good Combine and/or Pro Day numbers, he still has the chance to make some teams run to grab him in the first two rounds.