The San Francisco 49ers have one tight end who was great and might be able to be great again, and a whole bunch of guys with a lot of potential but not a lot to show for it just yet. Vernon Davis got a big vote of confidence from the team this offseason, and if things go as planned he'll be one of Colin Kaepernick's top targets this season.
Behind him, there's a slew of guys and the actual depth chart breakdown and roster chances of each of those guys is basically one giant question mark. Sure, we can assume that Vance McDonald is getting one more shot to do something interesting, we can assume that rookie Blake Bell will probably make it, but then there's guys like Garrett Celek, Asante Cleveland and Derek Carrier.
None of those guys inspire a ton of immediate confidence, but none of them should be overlooked either. San Francisco obviously thinks they have a winning combination at wide receiver with Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, but I expect they really want to get production out of the second and even third tight ends this season.
To further back up this theory, the 49ers threw to tight ends an awful lot in the preseason opener against the Houston Texans on Saturday. Celek saw two targets, Bell saw two targets, Cleveland saw three targets, McDonald saw one target and Carrier saw one target.
By the way, if you missed Celek's targets, then you also missed the first 49ers touchdown of the season:
He's not exactly a graceful butterfly out there, but he got the job done and shrugged off that tackle like a professional. I feel like over the years, we've heard Celek referred to as a lot of different things, from a potential pass-catcher to a blocking expert, but I really think he just fits the bill of an all-around solid backup tight end.
Fooch half-joked about Trent Baalke potentially asking Jim Tomsula to ensure the tight ends get a lot of targets on Saturday to potentially increase the trade value of any one of them, and I can totally see that. I'd be surprised if the 49ers weren't trying to showcase their tight ends, to maybe see if they can get something out of guys like Celek, Carrier and Cleveland. I think those guys are more likely to be traded than, say, McDonald or Bell.
Anyway, I did like what I saw from the tight ends in general. I thought Bell, in particular, looked solid. He caught the two passes that went his way for 15 yards, and looked good running his routes. He didn't look nearly as raw as I thought he might -- I was honestly expecting him to do virtually nothing for quite awhile. That's not the case, and I'm looking forward to seeing what else he can do in the future.
The tight end position not be as bad as I thought it might be this season. I'm just not sure I'm seeing anything worthwhile from McDonald, personally, and I don't want him to get the nod over someone else who might have more upside. We'll see what happens over the next three preseason games.