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49ers mid-season review: Tight ends

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The San Francisco 49ers tight end position has been a big question mark in 2014. How will the depth chart shake out in the second half of the season?

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers are closing in on the end of their bye week, and will be returning to practice on Monday. We are not exactly halfway through the season, but the timing of the bye is close enough that it makes sense to take a look at where everything stands. We will be going through each position over the next week. Thus far we have looked at the quarterbacksrunning backswide receivers and offensive line. Today, we move on to the tight ends.

Vernon Davis

DYAR: 26th out of 43
DVOA: 26th out of 43

WPA: 12th out of 40
EPA: 23rd out of 40

Grade: -9.8 (60th out of 62)
Yards/pass route run: 1.03 (30th out of 39)
Drop rate: 37th out of 39

Vance McDonald

DYAR: Second to last among TEs with 5-13 passes
DVOA: Last among TEs with 5-13 passes

Grade: 0.1 (26th out of 62)

Derek Carrier

Grade: 1.9 (16th out of 62)
Catch rating on deep passes (20+ yards): (7th out of 16)

It has been a less than stellar year for the 49ers tight ends. Entering the year, there was some thought it could potentially develop into a strength. Instead, Vernon Davis has been banged up and generally is just not looking particularly great. He had a pair of touchdowns in the 49ers season-opener, but doesn't that seem like forever ago at this point?

Vance McDonald came into the season with a year under his belt, and put together some strong preseason performances. And now he's struggling. He has dealt with his own injuries, starting three games, playing in five total. He has not been targeted all that much, and his most notable play was a fumble against the Rams. He has a positive grade from PFF in run blocking, but they have him struggling in pass blocking.

You could make the argument that Derek Carrier has provided the most upside at the position. He has gotten a decent amount of playing time with the various injuries to Davis and McDonald, and at times he has flashed some skills. He is more a ball catcher than blocker, and the 49ers are plenty deep in that department. Of course, at some point he very well could move past Vance McDonald on the depth chart. On Sunday against the Broncos, Carrier ended up with 20 snaps to McDonald's 14 snaps. The game turned into a blowout, so the 49ers might have been more inclined to get him some snaps given Davis and McDonald's recent injury history.

Whatever the case, he got some work. With McDonald struggling to find consistency, I don wonder if we see Carrier get some more opportunities, at least as a pass catcher. McDonald has been inconsistent, but can be an effective blocker. That should be enough to keep him in the lineup, but maybe it becomes a bit more of a platoon between him and McDonald.