2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Ohio State TE Nick Vannett

As we delve into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Steelers are likely to have interest in.

Being as the Steelers might have an interest in drafting another tight end this year, we take a look today at Ohio State’s Nick Vannett.

#81 – Nick Vannett/TE Ohio State: 6056 256

The Good:

– Great size and build for NFL tight end
– Willing and able run blocker
– Uses base well as blocker
– Durable player and very rarely off field
– Lined up wide, in slot and as both move and in­line tight end
– Understands angles
– Understands soft areas against zone and how to find them
– Soft hands
– Decent get off as route runner and relatively fluid in open space

The Bad:

– Very limited use as pass catcher during college career
– Cautious blocker at second level and doesn’t always initiate
– Doesn’t always shoot hands well inside as blocker, likes to maul instead
– Long speed questions
– Needs to be more physical as route runner
– Limited route tree in games watched


– Played in 53 games during college career
– 2015 Honorable mention All-Big Ten
– 2015 Mackey award watch list
– 2015 Senior Bowl participant
– 6 career touchdown receptions, 5 in 2014
– 10″ hands, 33 1/4″ arms, 80 3/4″ wingspan

Tape Breakdown:

It really is worth watching multiple games of Vannett to get a good feel for his blocking. when you do, you won’t feel cheated as he is fairly sound overall in his technique. Additionally, he didn’t hide from the fact that is was his primary job in the Ohio State offense.

On this power run to the left side, Vannett does an excellent job of turning the edge defender away from the play. Look at his wide base against Perez Ford. If there were a negative to point out here it would be that Vannett seems to allow hands inside his chest. It’s not a huge deal on this play, but I did notice similar incidents in the tape that I watched. Nit-picking, but worth noting nonetheless.

While Vannett wasnt used a lot in the passing game at Ohio State, he did show that he was a capable pass catcher and route runner from various spots on the field. Here he is lined up as an h-back on the right side of the offense. He first sells pass protection before quickly releasing into the flat for an easy grab along the sideline. While it’s hard to see in the clip, Vannett shows great body control and dexterity in adjusting to a throw behind him.

If you are a Steelers fan, this split-zone run should look familiar to you. Here, Vannett easily provides an off-tackle running lane after working right to left at the snap of the football. You will see Ohio state run a lot of split-zone last season and for the most part, Vannett did his job well in that scheme.

Vannett also functions well as an end-of-the line blocking tight end. here, he is asked to block down inside on the right defensive end on a power run to his side. It results in a nice run.

Vannett is not without his warts, however. here, he needs to do a better job of exploding to a favorable spot and angle on this inside zone run. Because he is slow and late, the cornerback is able to slip inside for the tackle. You will also see Vannett hesitate in the second level at times before initiating contact. In other words, he will at times allows the defender to attack him instead of it being the other way around.

When you go through Vannett’s tape, you will see him run a lot of shorter underneath routes where he’s asked to settle in soft spots of zone coverages and show the quarterback his numbers. Here, he does a good job of doing just that out of a bunch formation. after cleanly catching the ball with his hands, Vannett quickly gets himself turned and up the field and shakes a tackle in the process.


It’s a shame that Ohio State didn’t use Vannett more in the passing game during his career as he appears to be a capable route runner with good hands. Due to television angles, and the fact that Vannett wasn’t used much in the passing game, it’s hard to get a good idea about his overall ability to not only separate from physical defenders, but also his ability to stretch the field with speed. It will be interesting to see all of his combine numbers and I’m willing to bet his agility times (3-cone & 20-yard shuttle) won’t be poor.

In my opinion, Vannett, is a better blocker than Hunter Henry is. Henry, however, is the more accomplished pass catcher of the two and probably a bit faster. Last year, former Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman was drafted in the third round after having a college career similar to that of Vannett. Vannett, however, might even be a slightly better player than Heuerman and it will be interesting to match up the combine numbers of the two at the end of February.

Being as Vannett figures to be a top-three tight end this year, I can see him being drafted either late in the second round or by the final pick of the third round. He is most definitely an impressive all-around tight end, who might have a lot to offer to an NFL team as a pass catcher in addition to being a reliable run blocker.

Expect the Steelers to bring Vannett in for a pre-draft visit.

Projection: Late 2nd-3rd Round

Games Watched: vs Northern Illinois, vs Penn State, at Illinois

Previous Player Profiles
Hunter HenryEli AppleLaquon TreadwellDadi NicolasKendall Fuller
Deion JonesJihad WardKevin PetersonVonn BellMichael Caputo
Andrew Billings

  • Bill Sechrengost

    Thanks Dave. His size is pretty impressive. His production is not, although scheme certainly has something to do with that. I also will be looking forward to see how he does at the combine. I do think the Steelers will draft another TE this year. Vannett would be a good choice if he is still there in the third round. I also like Jake McGee from Florida and Tyler Higbee from Western Kentucky. Not a deep draft for TE’s, though.

  • PaeperCup

    Not too unlike Heath. Not a bad thing, I love me some Heath Miller, but I’d love a TE that can take it to the next level ala Gronk, Eifert, Kelce…Vannett has potential, we just don’t know how much because of how he was used at OSU.

  • In the second and last clip, he looks a little — dare I say it? — Gronk-ish. Nice agility, nice hands, decent speed, impressive size. I’m hoping the Steelers go TE early, and a future combination of Vannett and James would be intriguing. Obviously this is all about potential, not past performance, but he could be a nice pick in the third.

  • PittsburghSports

    I’d be happy with Henry or Vennett, but it just seems like a luxury right now, until we fill some holes in free agency.

  • Superdriller316

    Ohio St. has the same problem the Steelers have, to many weapons and not enough balls. I think the combo of Vannett and James could be really good. Vannett was listed as one of the Senior Bowl North Team MVPs over at DraftWire by Jon Ledyard too.

  • Spencer Krick

    So he’s basically the opposite of James. While James was a pretty solid pass catcher and flashed as a blocker, Vannett flashes as a pass catcher and is a solid blocker. If he was around in the 3rd/4th I’d be tempted to take’m.

  • LucasY59

    I agree, would like to fill the future hole at TE with one of those two, but there are other positions with talented players that could make a bigger impact sooner. I think if they dont get one of those two they will wait until next draft to take a TE early (and hopefully the Holes at other positions are adequately filled so the TE pick doesnt seem like such a luxury)

    the other issue is that with the Lack of Talent at the TE position in this Draft both of those players will probably require a draft pick that is about one rd earlier than most would want to use on them. Henry might require the 1st rd pick if they want him, would be a good 2nd rd candidate, but most likely wont be available when they pick in rd 2, same with Vannett would be a good 3rd rd pick, but wont be available much later than the 2nd. since they are the top 2 TEs and the dropoff from them is pretty steep, both could be gone before the Steelers 2nd pick

  • LucasY59

    I think the Value of TE in this draft is very Inflated, last yr Maxx Williams ALMOST made it to the Steelers 2nd rd pick, this yr Henry is very unlikely to do so. The Steelers got Jesse James in the 5th, but will be Lucky if Vannett is available in the 3rd (makes the Outlaw pick look like great Value) I am not totally opposed to using a 2nd rd pick on either of the TE’s mentioned, but I also think there will be better players available in the 2nd rd (more valuable at the place they are picked, and at a position of greater need) Heath isnt giving up his spot this yr, and most likely not next yr either. Spaeth is still around another yr and James will be ready to step into his role (#2 TE) by the end of the upcoming season anyway. So a early pick this yr is definitely a luxury (but also a future need, so it is a tough decision, especially since either of these two TEs are good prospects) I say wait and see if either make it to the later rd pick, and if they dont, patiently wait till next draft and take OJ Howard with the 32nd pick next Draft!

  • SteelersDepot

    Heath gone after 2016, Spaeth not a lock this year

  • LucasY59

    yes, They could both be gone (IF JJ really steps up this offseason they might cut Spaeth, but will probably keep him as dependable Vet Depth) but I think it will take a lot to make Heath stop playing, I could see him signing another 2 yr deal after this season (and the #1 TE spot is his until someone can beat him out for it, which is not an easy task, I guess if they were to invest a 2nd rd pick this yr it would be telling to the future plans the Team has for Heath)

  • Ike Evans

    Baby matt spaeth lol……adams is the guy in this draft at TE to me and of course henry but this kid and jake mcgee from florida are solid blocking TE options to play that matt spaeth role

  • igloojoe

    Is anyone else here looking at JP Holtz as an UDFA. He’s a great blocker and has decent hands. Not the biggest guy, but i like him.

  • Matt Manzo

    Seems like this TE class has more players that can catch and block!
    As much as I wanna focus on D, I wouldn’t be mad if we grab one of the top TEs in the early rounds. Though it does seem like a luxury and I have faith in Jesse James!

  • John Hinton

    Thanks for this post Dave. I was looking forward to getting more info on Vannett and this hit the mark.

  • PaeperCup

    There’s the question, I we looking to find a replacement for Spaeth or for Miller?

  • Ike Evans

    I guess it all comes down to what they think jesse james can be but youre right that is the question

  • jujudoublestuff

    He’s from THE Ohio St. so the Steelers will look hard at him.

  • PaeperCup

    i think James will one day make a great TE2, but unfortunately I don’t think he’ll have quite the impact in the run game like Spaeth has. Wondering if we can find a TE in the draft that will make up for that AND be a dynamic pass catcher.

  • steelmann58

    i like this kid has and showed good hands in the senor bowl.

  • Phillip Dssturk Dobrensky

    I wouldn’t look for a TE unless we dig deep in FA. We have 4, count them 4 real picks. (I don’t count 7th Rd picks to help). Jesse James is a good 2nd TE with the Ability to grow into a 1st. Rob Blanchflower is still there I think. Miller will be back. We’re ok. Depending on what happens in FA those 4 picks will be CB, S, DL, OLB or OL. If my math is right we should be able to fill 1 spot depending on who is available but the other 4 are probably taken. Unless we trade down for extra picks in the 2nd and 3rd. JMHO.