I have a lot of admiration for Walker, so when I see people talk bad about him, it upsets me, and I let that get the best of me by attacking someone in the game thread this past Sunday, so I am sorry for that. A lot of the irritation for Walker is understandable and justified, but when people want him gone next year and want a new tight end, I can't help but cringe a little bit and try to defend him.
Personally, I 100% believe the 49ers will keep Delanie Walker next year. Why? Cause his value to the team is incredible, he is such a versatile weapon it's crazy. Now I'm not sure how many people agree with me, but I do know there are some people on NN that are tired of waiting for him to turn into a reliable threat as a receiver, meaning consistent threat. Some people wanted the 49ers to draft Fleener or want us to draft a tight end next year. Picking Fleener could have helped out, but I believe Baalke and Harbaugh made the right decision by not drafting a tight end. Here's why.
With that out of the way, let's talk about Walker. His value is be undeniable. For starters, he's an amazing blocker. He may whiff on a block here or there throughout the game, but his consistency is impressive. Sometimes while the 49ers are on offense, I sometimes spend an entire series just watching him block. The guy just creams linebackers and he can hold his own against bigger defensive lineman. His cut block, where he throws himself at the defenders knees is just incredible. He's always leading the way for our running backs on tosses or sweeps and he almost always gets his man. I really encourage anyone that can rewind the game to watch him block on any given play, it's really enjoying to watch.
He doesn't just line up at tight end either, he's lined up as a full back, out wide as a receiver, as a wing back, and even at the tackle spot next to Alex Boone, but that was for only one play against Detroit. All these different positions create different mismatches and really don't give the defense the opportunity to predict a run or pass. He can block like the best of them and he can run with the quickest of them. His speed isn't elite, but it's pretty impressive.
Aside from his blocking ability, it's the threat he presents to defenses downfield that makes him such a valuable player. So far this season his hands have been pretty suspect, dropping some pretty catchable balls, but that doesn't mean he can't catch. Defenses still respect him as wide receiver because he has got it done before. His games against the Lions and the Giants last year are clear examples. He's no Vernon Davis, but give him 4.3 speed and he'd pretty much be a clone of him (with lesser hands).
What makes me upset is that some people don't realize the gift we have at our second string tight end position. The year Gronk and Jimmy Graham had last year has seriously corrupted people's view of our tight ends. We don't need a Fleener or a glorified tight end lining up next to our tackles, we need two strong and stout men that can hold their own against any linebacker in the league. And guess what, that's exactly what we have. Besides them both being really big and strong, they can both run. They can beat any linebacker and overpower most every safety. We couldn't, or at least I couldn't ask for a better situation at tight end.
Walker may not have the best hands, but his hands are good enough that defenses still respect him enough to always know where he is. That may not be enough for some fans, but for me it is. I would also like to believe it's enough for the coaches and the schemes they run too. If we do lose Walker next year, I'd be really sad and some lucky team will have gained an excellent player.