And we're back for another round of roster projections for the 49ers 53-man squad. To date we've discussed the wide receivers, the inside linebackers, the offensive line, the defensive line, the quarterbacks, the running backs, the fullbacks, the safeties, and the cornerbacks.
The 49ers have a pair of the more athletic tight ends in the league. Vernon Davis can run with just about anybody in the league, and the team has used Delanie Walker as a kick returner at times. Although Michael Crabtree could very well emerge as the leading pass catcher on this team going forward, Vernon Davis remains arguably the biggest threat on a play-by-play basis. Davis can blow past linebackers and is way too physical for safeties.
Delanie Walker has never put together amazing numbers outside of the preseason, and yet he continues to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Given Vernon Davis' strong blocking abilities, the team can roll out Davis and Walker on a given and break the field wide open.
Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker
Nate Byham, Tony Curtis, Joe Jon Finley
The issue with the tight end position is whether the team will bring along a third tight end, and if so, who it will be. A year ago, when I wrapped up the roster projections, I had everyone's favorite, Bear Pascoe, as a lock to make the roster. In fact, I even initiated discussion as to whether Pascoe or Walker would be the more productive tight end. Walker didn't have a monster year, but seeing as Pascoe didn't even make it on the 53-man roster, that ended up being a non-issue.
So, as we look at the 49ers roster bubble, we've got a trio of tight ends in Nate Byham, Tony Curtis and Joe Jon Finley. At this point, Finley seems to be on the wrong end of the spectrum. He's spent two full seasons on the practice squad and without the rules in front of me, I'm not entirely sure of his eligibility at this point for a third season (there are some exceptions allowing for a third year).
Tony Curtis is a guy who people were intrigued by at the time he was signed, but I think the general interest has waned a little bit. Sure he's got some talent, but when a player is signed to a reserve/future contract, there's a reason for it. With the 49ers decision to draft Byham, I'd think Curtis has a tough road in front of him.
In the end, will the 49ers even go with a 3rd tight end? They've practiced plenty of times utilizing an offensive lineman in that third tight end role for their goal line and short yardage situations. Do they stick with that, or does Nate Byham end up as more than waiver wire/practice squad fodder?