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49ers tight ends at the halfway point: 2017 free agency, NFL Draft, depth chart

The 49ers are at the midway point of 2016. Time to figure out where they stand at each position.

The San Francisco 49ers are in their bye week after playing seven games on their 2016 regular season schedule. Well, I can just call it their 2016 schedule, because there will not be any playoffs this year. Whatever the case, the team is just under halfway through their schedule, so the timing of the bye works for providing some midseason thoughts on the roster.

The team has a ton of question marks heading into the second half of the season, and the potential of a new general manager after the season means roster predictions are tough to assess. That being said, I thought we’d look at each position group and consider where it currently stands, who the teams own free agents are next year, and what the draft class looks like. Yesterday we took a look at the running backs. Today, we look at the tight ends.


Depth chart: Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Blake Bell, Je’Ron Hamm
Practice squad: None


Vance McDonald: 8 receptions, 142 yards, 2 TDs
Garrett Celek: 12 receptions, 139 yards, 1 fumble
Blake Bell: 2 receptions, 10 yards
Je’Ron Hamm: N/A

Where things stand

McDonald has been dealing with a hip injury that cost him two games. He has played the last two games, and seems fine. Otherwise the unit is in good shape health wise.

Nobody is standing out from this unit. McDonald and Celek are the starters, with McDonald getting slightly more snaps on a regular basis. Neither has been particularly impressive. McDonald continues to have problems with drops. He’ll make a big catch, and then drop an easy one. His inconsistency remains maddening.

The team has rotated between Bell and Hamm the last couple weeks. Hamm opened the season on the practice squad, but was promoted in Week 4 after McDonald suffered his hip injury. Hamm got the third tight end spot in Week 6, with Bell inactive. They swapped spots in Week 7. The 49ers spent a fourth round pick on Bell in 2015. He converted from quarterback to tight end during his final college season. He got more work last year after the team traded Vernon Davis but has not emerged as any kind of threat this year.

49ers 2017 free agents

Vance McDonald
Je’Ron Hamm (Exclusive Rights)

What’s next?

This is a unit that is filled with mediocrity. Like other skill positions, the tight ends are not helped by poor quarterback play. However, like the wide receivers, there is just nothing inspiring about this group.

The 49ers signed Celek to a four-year extension this offseason. I see no reason they extend McDonald. He just has not lived up to his second round billing. He flashes talent, but is incredibly inconsistent, and injuries have been an off and on issue through his career. I would be surprised if the 49ers re-signed him, although it would certainly be an inexpensive extension. Hamm is an ERFA, which means they can basically re-sign him to a league minimum one year contract if they want.

But we can add tight end to another position that needs some kind of upgrade this offseason. There are some veteran options, including Martellus Bennett, Jack Doyle, Jacob Tamme, Jared Cook, and Jermaine Gresham. Bennett and Doyle are the only ones of real intrigue as potential impact players. But again, this is a position the 49ers need to get more help in be it through free agency or the draft.

2017 NFL Draft top 10 prospects

O.J. Howard, Alabama
Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech
Jake Butt, Michigan
Evan Engram, Ole Miss
Jordan Leggett, Clemson
Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas
Durham Smythe, Notre Dame
Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma State
Cole Hikutini, Louisville
Pharaoh Brown, Oregon