I try to be as thorough as I can in my work to cover the NFL Draft. There are hundreds of prospects to consider, a process of evaluation to develop and a ton of research required, data collection and film study to be done. With that said, by mid-February I generally have a strong feel for who the prospects are and rarely do I learn about one that I am unfamiliar with.
Renown NFL Draft Analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network released his initial 2018 positional rankings on February 15, 2017. I still remember skimming though his work and seeing Washington TE Will Dissly ranked No. 5 for the position. Who? There's a top-5 tight end from Washington that I've never heard of? Mayock is extremely plugged in and it's important to stay engaged with his work.
Of course I immediately popped in the tape to get eyes on this dude. It wasn't hard to immediately recognize his upside as a blocker. Here are some of the notes from my scouting report on Dissly:
- Play Strength: Is a powerful drive blocker that moves bodies against their will. Finishes blocks and puts a considerable amount of people on their back for a tight end. Extremely physical after the catch.
- In-line Blocking: Strength of his game. Knows how to locate his hands, uncoil his hips and accelerate his feet to create movement. Sustains blocks and his hands are strong when locked.
- Space Blocking: Consistently reaches his landmarks and squares up against moving targets. Works his body into good positioning and plays under control. Has a high connect rate. Outstanding blocking out of bunch sets
But as a receiver? Finding upside with him being a dangerous receiving threat in the NFL was not something easy to project. The Huskies used him in a limited receiving role as a space-finder and check down option, so projecting him to separate against man coverage in the NFL and winning after the catch required belief in him to develop. Now he handled himself well in those scenarios, catching the ball cleanly and competing with physicality post-catch, but for a guy that switched over from playing defensive line to tight end in 2016, there was a lot to prove.
And it's not like he tested as a plus athlete which made his upside as a receiving threat even more blurry. After all, he did only catch 25 passes for 336 yards in 27 career games at tight end for Washington.
Well here we are. Dissly quickly silenced the notion that he was a blocking specialist and became the first rookie tight end in NFL history with over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in their debut. Through two games, Dissly has six catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
After his standout performance in Week 1, Dissly commented about not only the simplicity of contributing as a receiver but took jabs at tight ends who struggle to block.
“I think that’s how tight ends should be. You should be able to block and catch a pass,” Dissly said. “It’s not hard. They throw to you, you catch it and then you go do some cool things. A lot of guys out there, I would challenge them. They’re just as big as me and they just have to be a little more physical. They’re just as athletic. They can run fast and they weigh a lot and they’re tall, so there’s no reason they can’t block as well. Blocking’s just a mindset, and then obviously catching the ball is always fun.”
For a guy with limited receiving output entering his first NFL action, Dissly is showcasing an impressive skill set.
Lined up inline, Dissly separates from the linebacker by staying leveraged in his stem and attacking his upfield hip at the the route break to take advantage of the space in the middle of the field. Three forced missed tackles later and Dissly has the Seahawks in a goal-to-go situation after snapping the ball inside its own 30-yard line.
If that clip didn't convince you Dissly was a threat to win after the catch, here's another one that proves his ability. He's not a dynamic athlete but he is decisive with the ball in his hands and will challenge anyone with physicality. Notice how Dissly does well to sell his route break and the timing to work to his spot to make himself available for the easy pitch and catch from Russell Wilson.
Dissly has done a wonderful job running his routes with good timing and a consistency to arrive at his landmarks. On this rep, Dissly takes an outside release before working back to the middle of the field and busting Denver's zone coverage. This play showcases Dissly's strong hands after he fully extends for the football and snatches it in stride. I love how deliberate he is securing the football and competing after the catch. For a guy who is young to the position, he sure does look natural at taking care of the little things.
Speaking of doing the little things, this may seem like a simple 2-yard touchdown catch but Dissly illustrates some notable nuance worth mentioning.
After using his hands to work off the jam, Dissly works across the field and finds space in the zone to sit down and be available for Wilson. Pay attention to how he angles himself at the catch point to shield himself from any coverage or hit that could come his way. He then quickly turns away to mitigate any contact that could come and jar the ball loose.
Only in his third season playing tight end and two games into his NFL career, Dissly has illustrated exceptional growth acclimating to the position and producing. Seattle's offense has experienced considerable turnover in personnel of late and Dissly has the makings of a consistent force and building block for the future. Not bad for a guy labeled a blocking specialist selected on Day 3 of the draft.