Previously, Fooch rolled out a look at the wide receiver position in the NFC West, and after that, a look at the running back situation. He's demanding that I post this look on tight ends, lest I receive a beating from our SB Nation overlords. Not surprisingly, you good folks voted for the 49ers when it came down to the running backs, but Fooch didn't even include a poll on the wide receivers post, since it was very clearly Arizona's to lose.
So now we've come to tight ends, certainly a position of strength for the 49ers and one that we don't necessarily need to cover all that much on their end, so we'll focus on our NFC West foes. But just in case you're slow or you have been absent for a couple seasons, the 49ers field Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker as their top two tight ends. One of them is a pro bowler (can you guess who?!) while the other, in my mind, could start on another team. They also brought in Nate Byham to be a blocker, and he has, at the very least, exceeded expectations regarding his all around ability.
The Seattle Seahawks might have the second best roster of tight ends in the NFC West, but after a down season from John Carlson, it's hard to quantify how much that even means when it all comes down to it. You can make an argument that Carlson's year was due to many circumstantial things like poor quarterback play and being utilized more in the blocking game. They've got Cameron Morrah as his backup and he's a decent-to-good receiving option. Chris Baker is a non-factor.
The Rams currently have Daniel Fells as their starter, and he too is labeled as having a down season, at least in my eyes. At the beginning of the year, I felt as though he'd make the next step, and he never really seemed to. He's actually one of the better receiving options on the roster, but that's more of a product of, you know, the Rams not having any wide receivers. Fells snared 41 receptions for 391 yards and 2 touchdowns - nothing special. Billy Bajema, of former 49ers fame, had 145 yards and Michael Hoomanawanui had one more with 146 yards. Hoomanawanui may have some value and will probably be the starter if the team lets Fells walk and they don't bring in a big name free agent. Bajema is a blocker who occasionally catches a pass and will remain in that role.
And then we look to the Cardinals and .... well, there's not much there. They have Ben Patrick, but it looks like he might be walking in free agency. They've got Stephen Spach, who is a blocker more than anything. It's no secret that the Cardinals throw to wide receivers, not tight ends.
As Fooch did in previous iterations of these posts, I'll take a look at who could be a potential sleeper at the position, if any. A sleeper is just someone other than the top guy who can be a game changer. For instance, the 49ers have the best tight position (in my opinion), but is there anyone on the other teams who could step up and change things? Probably not, but let's look at 'em anyway.
49ers: Gotta go with Nate Byham here. Delanie Walker is a solid number two and possibly a starter on other teams, but if Byham can continue to improve his hands, he could very well take some snaps away from Walker. Byham wants to contribute any way he can, and he just might at this point.
Rams: Fendi Onobun could be a guy who breaks through if the Rams don't draft someone. He needs some time to develop, though. He's probably got the best chance of these sleeper picks to make something of himself, though it may take awhile.
Seahawks: It's most likely that Carlson gets back to what he does best and has a great season, but if we're going with a sleeper, it's got to be someone like Anthony McCoy. He's in the same boat as Onobun, but it's more likely that Cameron Morrah excels behind Carlson in Josh McDaniels' offense.
Cardinals: Yeah ... I uh, I honestly got nothing here. Sorry, Arizona.