Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue?
A year after dealing with injuries to their four original 53-man roster tight ends, the San Francisco 49ers have decided to buy in bulk. The team drafted Blake Bell and Busta Anderson this year, giving them eight tight ends. Kyle Nelson technically is listed as a tight end, and might play some tight end in the preseason, but we don't count him as one of the eight.
Garrett Celek entered last offseason as the team's third tight end. The 49ers used a lot of heavy packages, which resulted in a sizable amount of playing time for him. The team had Derek Carrier to compete with him, but given that Carrier still had a lot of room to develop as a blocker, Celek seemed in good shape for a roster spot.
Then camp hit and he opened it on the PUP list. It turns out he had a disc issue in his back, and it cost him most of the season. He stayed on the PUP list through Week 12, and was activated for Week 13. He played three straight weeks and then an ankle injury put him on injured reserve the final two weeks of the season.
Celek looked generally solid in his return, but we can't really take a look out of just a handful of games. The big thing is that he has since said his back is fine, which is big given how back injuries can be problematic.
Why he might improve:
He is a fairly well-rounded player. He is not a dynamic pass catcher, but he is not a liability in the passing game. He is a strong blocker, but being able to catch the ball on occasion means he won't be a giveaway that a run play is coming. Given Vance McDonald's struggles, Celek very well could work his way into more playing time this year. If his back is truly in good shape, he has a chance to be a minor impact player.
Why he might regress:
I think it really just comes down to the back injury. He is never going to be a superstar tight end, but he does enough well, that I don't think skill regression is a real concern at this point. Anything is possible but at 26 years of age, his skills are what they are for now.
Odds of making the roster:
He's not a lock, but given his solid skill-set, I have to think he's got a better than even chance of making the roster. The team loaded up on tight ends, and with eight on the roster, the numbers game is in play. Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald seem like locks to me, opening the door for one, maybe two more spots. Blake Bell is not going anywhere barring a truly awful offseason. Busta Anderson is likely ticketed for the practice squad, or a potential "injury" in the offseason or training camp that puts him on the NFI list or injured reserve.
It seems like Garrett Celek and Derek Carrier could be competing for one roster spot. Carrier has the more natural pass catching ability, but Celek has proven his worth as a solid all around third tight end.