The departure of tight end Delanie Walker leaves just two tight ends on the 49ers roster heading into the 2013 NFL Draft. Walker was a man of many talents. He lined up in the backfield, in the slot, outside and on the line of scrimmage. He fulfilled the ‘joker' style tight end role with the 49ers that so many teams have implemented.
Taking that into consideration, most think it's quite logical that the 49ers will look to the draft to find Walker's replacement. A guy that I really like is Vance McDonald from Rice University.
Weight: 267 lbs
Vertical Jump: 33.5"
Broad Jump: 119"
3-cone drill: 7.08
- Versatility: McDonald, like Walker for the Niners, lined up all over the field for the Owls. Rice utilizes a spread style offense, including the pistol formation. McDonald largely played out of the slot, but he also showed some ability playing out of the backfield as an H-back, as well as on the line of scrimmage. McDonald even had a few carries off a wrinkle in Rice's zone read plays. He provides matchup issues just about anywhere on the field and would fill the ‘joker' role nicely.
- Physicality: McDonald is big. He knows how to use his size to his advantage when the ball is in his hands. At Rice, McDonald was on the receiving end of several bubble screens. Why throw bubble screens to a man of his size? Easy ... He doesn't dance or run sideline to sideline. He squares up and takes on defenders while keeping his legs moving. He's rarely brought down on the first hit, let alone behind the line of scrimmage. McDonald also utilizes his giant frame well in positioning himself between the defender and the ball. He also uses size and strength to block effectively out of the slot.
- Wide receiver skills: I've said before that McDonald is a wide receiver trapped in a tight end's body. He lined up primarily in the slot at Rice and as previously mentioned, he was an integral part of the offense by catching bubble screens, blocking on the perimeter and making plays down field.
- Inline blocking: Because McDonald rarely lined up as an inline tight end, he's extremely raw in his blocking skills around the line of scrimmage. The good news here is McDonald shows the willingness and tenacity to be a successful blocker. He just needs coaching.
- In-route adjustments: McDonald doesn't have the worst hands. In fact, they're actually quite good. Still, he seems to have trouble adjusting to his route based on the defense and again when ball is in flight.
Doing your homework: Check out McDonald's game vs. Louisiana Tech from September of 2012 below. You can also see cut-ups from his games vs. Texas, Baylor, and Houston here at DraftBreakdown.com.
Why he fits the 49ers:
McDonald would be a nice fit in a 49ers offense that looks to create mismatches with play action and misdirection. McDonald has extensive experience playing in the pistol and would present yet another receiving and rushing option out of that formation.
McDonald reminds me a lot of another former Rice tight end, James Casey. Casey, recently signed by the Eagles, had the same type of questions surrounding his blocking and lack of experience as a true inline tight end. They also have similar strengths in creating mismatches whether lining up in the backfield or out of the slot.
Why he might not fit the 49ers:
McDonald will need a lot of work on his blocking in the box. Having only occasionally lined up as at true inline tight end, he'll need to develop technique and an understanding of assignments and concepts before he can be used on the line of scrimmage.
McDonald, like the departed Walker, doesn't have the greatest ball skills. He's capable of catching any pass but can have trouble adjusting to the defense mid-route and to the ball in flight. With Colin Kaepernick's howitzer of a right arm, McDonald won't have much time to think when catching passes from No. 7.
What they're saying:
- SB Nation's Matt Verderame said this after McDonald's pro day:
Tight end Vance McDonald is one of the best prospects at his position. The 270-pound bruiser can block and catch effectively and has average speed after running a 4.69 40-yard dash. He's thought to be a second day pick.
- Dave Richard from CBSSports.com said this about McDonald at the Senior Bowl:
Ultimately, he's viewed as a vertical threat with some really nice measureables. He's 6 feet 4 1/8 with 10-inch hands, 34 ??-inch arms and a nearly 82-inch wingspan. That's the kind of make-up for a seam-breaker that can freeze strong-side linebackers and safeties alike. Just don't expect him to win any awards for his blocking.
- You can see McDonald's stats here courtesy of CFBstats.com
McDonald has a tremendous amount of upside. His weaknesses are nothing that can't be corrected with proper coaching and developmental time. His big body and unique versatility make him a threat from anywhere on the field. He's capable of working the seam, the flats and the middle of the field.
McDonald really impressed at the Senior Bowl back in January. He used an outstanding week of practice against NFL talent to move himself into the early to middle rounds. I'd look for McDonald to be a late round two or third round pick.