For the first time in several years, the San Francisco 49ers may be looking at a transition at the tight end position. Of course, Vernon Davis will remain the starter and San Francisco's No. 2 target overall, but his backup, Delanie Walker, sees the field in an awful lot of two tight end sets, and he might be on his way out the door.
Taking a look at some of the weaknesses and openings the 49ers have, we see things like tight end and safety: positions that generally aren't going at the very top end of the first round. So they stand a solid chance of actually addressing one of their needs despite picking at the back-end of the first.
We'll cover plenty of tight ends in the lead-up to the 2013 NFL Draft, but I'm going to start with one that's flying a bit under the radar: Dion Sims. There's a lot to consider with Sims, who is a veritable giant at the position. He's 6'5 and 285 pounds, at last measurement. He'll probably enter the NFL a bit lighter than that, though.
Sims comes from Michigan State, where he performed far below expectations, more due to the fact that he's been injured throughout his career. In 2012, he was leading the Spartans in receiving yards through the first five weeks of the season, but he fell behind after missing time with an ankle injury.
- Sims is an able blocker, which of course, is valued highly by the 49ers. Walker found himself drilling his blocking day-in and day-out, and only after perfecting it was he allowed to start going out to catch passes again. Sims can block from the get-go and work from there.
- While he's been working on dropping his body fat percentage to a certain degree, Sims is still huge. He's got the size and strength to be a force in the running game, but he also epitomizes "full head of steam" once he gets rolling. He's tough to bring down and sheds tacklers with little effort.
- Sure, it's not always pretty to watch, but Sims is pretty fast once he gets up to speed. His acceleration isn't the best, but for having a lot of .. "body" he does have great "body control" on top of that, as well.
- Durability issues, obviously. He was limited with a broken wrist and other smaller injuries and missed three games as a junior with an ankle injury. Fortunately, there haven't been a lot of repeat injuries so it could just be bad luck, but the concern is there.
- Sims had a felony charge that led to him missing time in college earlier on. He seems to have matured since then but it will be another red flag for a player who doesn't have as much tape as one would like.
- Sims made a concentrated effort to reduce his body fat percentage prior to his junior season, but if he doesn't keep that effort going throughout his NFL career, he could easily put weight and fat back on his frame.
Doing Your Homework:
There's a lot of video of Sims to be found online, but as is standard in my prospect reports, I'll embed one from Draft Breakdown. You can do some homework and search the Internet for some other videos, but here's a video compilation from a game against Northwestern in 2012:
Why He Fits The 49ers:
Of course, Sims is a different player than Walker, but then again, Walker wasn't exactly what Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman wanted in their No. 2 tight end. I have to say, I'm eternally grateful for Walker despite his drops, as he made some big plays and truly evolved by becoming a dynamic impact blocker when it was all said and done.
Sims is a blocker who can catch passes, much better than any that might get the "just a blocker" label. He's somewhere between a blocker and Rob Gronkowski, with potential all over the board.
With the 49ers, he would see the field from day one as a blocker, and just when defenses think they have him pegged as just a blocker, Sims is quietly learning NFL routes and polishing his receiving abilities on practice, waiting for that breakout game that would surely come in his rookie season.
Why He Might Not Fit The 49ers:
Of course, if I'm wrong (happens a lot), and the 49ers do want a player like Walker, then Sims isn't that guy. He is a receiving tight end, don't get me wrong, but he's more of a body control, "impossible to bring down" kind of guy. He'll beat middle linebackers and he'll be a tough matchup for safeties, but he doesn't set up the speed mismatch or anything like that.
What They're Saying:
- Rob Rang of CBS Sports had this to say:
At 6-5 and 285 pounds, Sims looks almost more like an offensive lineman, but he moves like a tight end with the foot quickness and body control to be an effective pass-catcher.
- SB Nation's Michigan State blog felt that Sims could do more to help himself with another year with the Spartans:
Can never fault a guy for leaving early when the money is there, but it would have been nice for Sims to return and help out an offense in transition, while likely boosting his stock a bit more, or at least cementing it.
- Sims comes in at the No. 72 player overall on SB Nation's top 100 prospects big board. That makes him their No. 4 tight end in the nation, behind Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz and Jordan Reed.
Sims is an interesting prospect for a lot of reason. We've seen receiving tight ends, blocking tight ends, and we've seen some big receiving tight ends who are plenty OK with blocking. Sims could turn out to be very, very good at being the latter.
He's quick for his size, he's got reliable hands, he has a nose for the football and he loves contact.
Unfortunately, there's just not a lot of tape out there on him. He's not worth a first round pick by any means, but the tight end position continues to evolve in the NFL, and we might actually see a run of them at some point in this draft. Sims could easily find himself in the second round of the draft.