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49ers rookies 2015 review: Blake Bell

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Is Blake Bell a potential long-term pass catching option? We take a look at our predictions from last summer.

Arik Armstead | Jaquiski Tartt | Mike Davis | Eli Harold

Each offseason, we like to run a series of articles here on Niners Nation called "90-in-90." In the post, we take a look at 90 players (or so) on the San Francisco 49ers' 90-man roster throughout the offseason and what we can expect of them the following year. We take a look at their expected impact, whether or not they'll make the roster and things of that nature. For rookies, we're going back and looking at how we did with those posts.

I've linked to the previous articles up above, and today we move on to tight end Blake Bell. The fourth round pick made the conversion from quarterback to tight end late in his college career, but the Bell-dozer flashed enough to earn the call on draft day.

Heading into last season, the 49ers appeared to have considerable depth at tight end. Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald were looked at as the starters, with Derek Carrier and Garrett Celek likely in the mix for some opportunities. In the 90-in-90 last July, I suggested Bell would be at the bottom of the depth chart. David Neumann put together some film breakdown, and while he liked Bell's upside, he also suggested Bell's future was likely to develop more in 2016 than 2015. We both talked about the potential red zone possibilities, and I also suggested maybe he ends up as a possible emergency QB and trick-play option.

The team ended up trading Carrier before the season started, and traded Davis mid-way through the season. It took a few weeks, but by Week 13, Bell had gained a significant opportunity. Over the final five weeks, Bell had the most tight end snaps three times, and was a close second to Vance McDonald the other two weeks. He finished the season with 15 receptions (24 targets) for 186 yards. Five of his receptions were enough to generate a first down.

Chip Kelly prominently features tight ends in his offense, which bodes well for the athletic Bell. Blaine Gabbert seemed to try and target McDonald for a stretch, but the drops remained an issue. The team is reportedly working on an extension with Celek, but I think we see Bell move firmly past him in the passing game this fall. The team will likely add at least one more tight end to the mix, but expectations should be growing for Bell in year two. I'm not expecting some kind of monstrous statistical breakout season, but the opportunities will be there for him.

Where it will get interesting is how he develops as a blocker. He showed improvement in his final year at Oklahoma, but there will be plenty more to build on in 2016. That will be something to pay close attention to when the preseason games begin.