One position where the 49ers do not have a lot of "new" players is at tight end. Rookie Garrett Celek was an undrafted free agent, but the odds of him doing much in this battle are somewhere between slim and no chance. At the same time, the position does involve some relative new bodies in the form of returning players. Nate Byham spent last season on injured reserve after a training camp ACL tear. Konrad Reuland spent time on the practice squad last season after signing as an undrafted free agent in the lockout-shortened offseason.
And yet, that is only half the battle (or 2/3?). We all know Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker will be the starting two tight ends. The 49ers used a lot of two tight-end sets, ranking second in the NFL in 2+ TEs or 6+ offensive linemen. It seemed that they more or less spent much of their base offense out of the two tight end set. Given this use of two tight ends and heavy packages, that extra tight end can provide enough value to be fairly important. Add in potential injuries and the third tight end has serious value to the 49ers.
The battle for the third tight end spot is an interesting one because the 49ers have been trying to develop some more versatility with the position. The 49ers gave second year defensive end Demarcus Dobbs some playing time at tight end during OTAs and there has been plenty of chatter about him getting a legit shot to take the third tight end position.
Is this getting a little too cute at a position that I would argue is kind of important for a tight end heavy offense? Or do you think this ends up being something where Byham or Reuland makes the team and Dobbs is just somebody to mix things up like the 49ers did with Isaac Sopoaga?
Matt Barrows has paid a fair amount of attention to the tight ends and it sounds like Byham has been the better blockerin his two years with the 49ers, while Reuland can haul in anything thrown his way. Byham showed some solid skills in 2010, but then was fairly limited last year due to his his knee injury. This is his first extended chance to impress the current coaching staff.
At this point I think Byham makes the roster, but obviously that is a pretty open battle. Do you think strong bubble is too much for either Byham or Reuland?
Lock: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker
Strong Bubble: Nate Byham, Konrad Reuland
Longshot: Garrett Celek