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What does Vance McDonald extension mean for 2017 NFL Draft?

The 49ers now have three tight ends signed through at least 2018. Time to consider the roster implications.

The San Francisco 49ers announced on Friday that tight end Vance McDonald had signed a five-year contract extension that locks him up through 2021. Earlier this year, Garrett Celek signed a four-year extension that locked him up through 2019. That followed the team spending a fourth round pick on quarterback turned tight end Blake Bell in the 2015 NFL Draft. His rookie contract locks him up through 2018.

With three tight ends signed through at least 2018, the team conceivably could decide they’re set at the position. You can never have enough talent at any position, but does the McDonald extension potentially preclude any significant investment in the tight end position this offseason?

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay recently did a 25-questions article where they addressed a variety of topics related to the 2017 NFL Draft. In the article, Kiper said pass rushers are the highlight of this draft, but the tight end class is right behind them. He also said Virginia Tech’ Bucky Hodges is a tight end who could emerge as one of the “physical freaks” of the class. McShay had this to say:

The tight end class is unusually strong with Alabama's O.J. Howard (No. 23), Michigan's Jake Butt (No. 26) and Hodges (No. 32) all in the Top 32 right now. All three are legit weapons in the passing game.

The 49ers have numerous needs on both sides of the roster. It’s still hard to get overly excited about the team’s tight end depth. I do think McDonald has shown some big play-making skills. He is second to Rob Gronkowski in yards per catch. That’s no small feat. But the drops remain incredibly infuriating. He’ll make a huge 50-yard play, and then he’ll drop one that even I might be able to catch.

While McDonald looks to improve in that area, it would appear we’ll be left hoping for the best for at least the next year. Bell has not done a whole lot and we have seen he and Je’Ron Hamm alternate opportunities at times. Celek is not a bad tight end, but when you lack consistency at the top of the depth chart, it’s a sometimes good, sometimes frustrating group of players.