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2015 NFL Draft: Tight End Rankings

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An early look at the top tight ends in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off his worst season since 2006, the future of former first round pick Vernon Davis is unclear. He's a cap casualty candidate and if he doesn't agree to restructure his contract Davis could find himself playing for a new NFL team for the first time in his pro career.

Should Davis walk, the 49ers will have some work to do to find his replacement. 2013 second round pick Vance McDonald would be the next man up and has proven to be wildly inconsistent even when healthy. Garrett Celek and Derek Carrier are nice depth but shouldn't make anyone feel comfortable in a permanent starting role.

Unfortunately, for the 49ers, this year's tight end class isn't very deep.

Here are my early top 5 tight ends for the 2015 NFL Draft:

1.     Maxx Williams 6-4, 249lbs, rSo., Minnesota
2.     Clive Walford 6-4, 251lbs, rSr., Miami
3.     Nick O'Leary 6-3, 252lbs, Sr., Florida State
4.     Tyler Kroft 6-6, 246lbs, rJr., Rutgers
5.     Jesse James 6-7, 261lbs, Jr., Penn State

Others to watch for: Ben Koyack 6-5, 255lbs, Notre Dame; Wes Saxton 6-3, 248lbs, South Alabama; Blake Bell 6-6, 252lbs, Oklahoma.

It's very likely that the first tight end won't come off the board until late in the first round or early in the second. This means the 49ers could have a shot at landing one of the top prospects in both the first and second rounds.

Williams is the consensus number one and rightfully so. He's versatile enough to line up anywhere in the formation, incredibly athletic, and a willing and able blocker. He's still a bit raw  but figures to be an immediate impact player from day one.

Walford is a potential target in the second round and would be an ideal fit for the 49ers. Like most tight ends from Miami, Walford is going to make a living in the middle of the field and up the seams in the NFL. He's an instant mismatch for slower LBs and smaller DBs and he has the quickness and acceleration to beat safeties. He does struggle with concentration drops at times and isn't a great blocker, but neither was Vernon Davis or Vance McDonald when they entered the league. I love seeing that the 49ers intend to meet with Walford.

Nick O'Leary is a tough guy to root against. An old school-type player, O'Leary's game is centered on physicality and excellent hands. He's not a great athlete but you'll be hard pressed to find a more fearless, "willing to mix it up" TE in the class. O'Leary is tough as nails (he's survived TWO motorcycle accidents, one of which can be seen here) but lacks the strength and athleticism to be elite.

Tyler Kroft is intriguing to me as move-tight end that could play predominately in the slot or on the outside. He's seems to be more comfortable getting off the line when he's lined up wide rather than in line.

A potential late round pick could be South Alabama's Wes Saxton who checked in about 10lbs heavier at the Combine than originally listed. He's earned some buzz for his speed and athleticism at the East-West Shrine Game in January. Still coming into his own as a blocker (like most tight ends out of college) but appears to be best suited as a move tight end.