Going into the draft, the 49ers had a void to fill at the tight end position. After watching Delanie Walker sign with the Titans as their new starting tight end, the Niners had to figure out who would fill his role as the "Swiss Army Knife" of Greg Roman's offense. They traded up in the second round and got their man with the 55th overall selection, Rice tight end Vance McDonald.
Let's take a look at who the Texas product is off the gridiron, and what he brings to the Bay.
Bio (adapted from riceowls.com)
Full Name: Vance Coman McDonald... Born: June 13, 1990 at Beaumont, Texas... Parents: Bret and Beverly McDonald (one brother, one sister)... Father was a linebacker at Texas... Attended East Chambers High School, participating in football, basketball, and track... College major: Kinesiology
McDonald was used extensively in the slot position during his time as a Rice Owl. Couple that experience with his physical specs, and you've got a player that epitomizes what Jim Harbaugh values in a player. On the surface, it looks like the loss of Delanie Walker should be greatly mitigated by the addition of McDonald. He fulfills the role of the "Joker" tight end and can line up as an H-back, inline, or in the slot. The 49ers are known for their extensive use of two tight ends and the intricate formations they put them in; McDonald gives them a new piece to work with within that framework.
Fans in Gil Brandt and Anthony Becht
It's been widely circulated (and duly noted in David Fucillo's recent article) that the venerable Gil Brandt is very high on McDonald, dubbing him the second best tight end in the 2013 draft. A look at McDonald's Twitter, and you'll find congrats from Anthony Becht, a longtime NFL tight end and former first rounder. Becht goes on to say that it was a pleasure working with McDonald, so it's nice to see that this kid has been tutored and trained with guys who have been there before. Becht wasn't a world-beater during his time in the NFL, but he can provide valuable insight and prime McDonald for what to expect at the next level.
In a nod to Harbaugh's commander-in-chief, Mike Ditka, during his playing days in Chicago, Vance McDonald was assigned No. 89. The 49ers can only hope he emulates the Hall of Famer on the field as well. During his first five season as a player, the current ESPN analyst and former coach tallied five Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections, evolving the tight end position from its blocking roots to the playmaking capacity it has today. Harbaugh supposedly texted Ditka for his blessing, but has yet to hear back from Iron Mike. Harbaugh quipped that perhaps Ditka is holding out until he sees McDonald perform on the field.
Rod and Reel, and Rifle
The public pictures of Vance's Facebook profile are (not surprisingly) dominated by his football career. But a few photos from the big man's youth show that he is (or at least used to be) an accomplished fisherman and sport hunter. Being a lifelong native of Texas, it certainly isn't a shocker that the kid knows how to handle a fishing rod and rifle. It is interesting to note, however, that both sports require a great deal of patience and precision; qualities he can apply to the game of football. It's difficult to say or know whether McDonald kept up with game fishing and hunting, but if nothing else, it's an interesting footnote.
Stay tuned for more off-field profiles of the 49ers 2013 draft class.