Many of us were surprised that the 49ers went with a Tight End in the 2010 draft because they already had Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker on the roster. That said, Byham was brought in to be a completely different player at that position.
Byham only caught a total of 47 passes in four seasons with the Pitt Panthers, not exactly eye-popping numbers. He was brought in to be the short yardage hybrid FB/TE because of his blocking ability. Surprisingly, he showed some great hands in the pre-season.
This morning I am going to take an in-depth look at the pick and what options were available to the 49ers at that position in the 6th round.
6th Round, 182nd Pick: TE- Nate Byham Pittsburgh
2010 Stats: 5 Receptions, 27 Yards, 0 TD
Analysis: Great blocking ability, extremely strong in between the hashes, ability to control pass rushers on the end and surprisingly soft hands. Nate Byham may in fact be considered a steal moving forward. He will not surprise anyone with his speed or athleticism. What he will do is bruise and humiliate defenders physically. There is nothing finesse about Byham except maybe for his hands. That said, he is restricted at what he can do, which is usually the case for 6th round picks.
6th Round, 184th Pick: LB- Adrian Tracy William and Mary
2010 Stats: Did Not Play
Analysis: Was placed in injured reserve in August and never played a game for the Giants in 2010. Coming out of college he was seen as a player with tremendous upside that really never put it completely together. Obviously, we have to reserve judgment until/if he plays for the Giants.
6th Round, 185th Pick: TE- Anthony McCoy Southern California
2010 Stats: 2 Games, 0 Receptions
Analysis: McCoy was considered a 2nd round pick in the weeks leading up to the draft, but academic and off the field issues caused his draft stock to plummet. He was playing at USC during the height of their corruption and character seemed to be an issue. Former coach Pete Carroll took a flier on him in the 6th round, but it didn't pan out.
It is hard to imagine that McCoy will be anything more than a roster filler in the NFL, but if anyone can bring his talent back out it is Pete Carroll
6th Round, 186th Pick: DE- Clifton Geathers South Carolina
2010 Stats: 1 Game
Analysis: Released by the Cleveland Browns and picked up by Dallas with a stop in Miami in between. Geathers didn't see the field that much in 2010. When a player makes three different stops before his rookie season is over, it cannot be seen as a good thing. I was high on him as a sleeper pick in the late rounds, but apparently that was false hope.
6th Round, 191st Pick: WR- Dezmon Briscoe Kansas
2010 Stats: Another player that didn't finish his rookie season where it started. I am still trying to understand why the Cincinnati Bengals cut this talented receiver loose; but their loss is Tampa Bay's gain. Although not making an appearance until week 16, Briscoe made an immediate impact. He caught six passes and scored a TD in the Buccaneers final two games.
Moving forward I expect Briscoe to continue improving as a receiver and the Buccaneers to utilize him on the field more. This could be a real steal
6th Round, 195th Pick: WR- Antonio Brown Central Michigan
2010 Stats: 9 Games, 16 Receptions, 167 Yards, 0 TD, 1 Kick off return for TD
Analysis: This is a pick I am sure the 49ers would have made if he fell to their spot when they selected Kyle Williams. At 5 foot-10 inches, Brown is a smaller receiver but was able to produce a great deal for the Steelers in his limited action in 2010. He had nearly 680 all purpose yards.
I don't expect Brown to be anything more than a #3 or #4 receiver in the NFL, but his return ability makes him an attractive young player moving forward. Additionally, coming from a small school Brown's learning curve was bigger which means that he should mature as a player and build off a strong 2010 season.
6th Round, 196th Pick: CB- Jamar Wall Texas Tech
2010 Stats: 1 Games, 1 Tackle
Analysis: The Cowboys selected hometown favorite, Jamar Wall, in the 6th round, but it didn't work out too great. He never played a snap for Dallas and was later picked up by the Houston Texans; currently with the Eagles. I really did expect the 49ers to take a long look at Wall who was extremely productive with the Red Raiders in college, but they decided to go another route; good thing they did.
Synopsis: We all know that Jim Harbaugh loves to utilize his Tight Ends in the WCO hybrid that he plans to run. This will benefit Byham a great deal. His blocking ability has never been questioned, but what surprised many skeptics was the soft hands that he showed during the pre-season. Even when Nate Byham was going against opposing 1st team defenders he was able to get separation and make plays.
I expect Harbaugh and Co. to utilize him more than Singletary last year in 2011. You are going to see him in on red zone plays as both a FB and a TE. Byham possesses the ability to be sneaky in the passing game. This means that he can fool defenders with what looks like a blocking projectorary and then sneak into the defensive back field; ala Tom Rathman, who I expect will work with Byham a lot in the weeks leading up to the 2011 season.
It really is impossible to project 6th round picks a year later, but I will attempt to do so. The players drafted immediately following Byham at need positions for the 49ers did not fare all to well in 2010. On the other hand, Nate Byham contributed somewhat, but looks to have a nice career ahead of him.
You are not going to see him spread out wide like Vernon Davis or Delanie Walker. Instead, you are going to see Byham play within the confines of the hashes and get dirty. He is a physical delight that can pound with the best of them. Once Byham is in the game it is like you have 6 offensive linemen playing, with one of them receiver eligible. This may fly under the radar a little bit, but you cannot understate how that can help a team in the redzone and on short yardage downs.
Additionally, there are some of us who believe that Byham would fit perfectly as the 49ers FB in the future. While, I am not for or against this, it dues seem like a decent idea. What I would rather see is Byham play a versatile role in the 49ers offense switching between three different positions: extra offensive linemen, fullback, and tight end. He has a future as a multi-dimensional player for the 49ers.