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49ers roster 2016: Tight end a position of need, but draft class is disappointing

The 49ers retained Garrett Celek but still need help at tight end ... the NFL Draft is not the answer, however.

With the 2016 NFL Draft fast approaching, we're going to take a quick look at each position on the San Francisco 49ers, review what happened in free agency, if anything and then list off some NFL Draft prospects. We already covered the running back position and now we roll into tight ends.

Last season, the 49ers rolled with Vernon Davis as their starting tight end, but he looked as drained and depleted as he has in years past and the 49ers didn't get much out of him. Eventually, they traded him to the Denver Broncos, where he basically did what he did the last couple seasons with the 49ers.... he existed. He took up space.

Meanwhile, the 49ers were left with Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek competing for playing time as the starting tight ends, and neither did much to impress in the end. Celek did have a couple good games, and showed more as a potential receiver than he ever has in his career.

McDonald, to his credit, was very McDonald-like, in that he looked really good blocking and catching some passes but also dropped a ton and generally was a massive disappointment.

On the open market, the 49ers did nothing at the position, and that's fine. There were only a couple players worth looking into, and the 49ers were wise not to get into a bidding war for someone like, say Jared Cook. What they did do was give Celek a multi-year extension, one that is somewhat concerning given its length and what Celek has shown thus far.

Going into next season, they have Celek, McDonald, Blake Bell and Busta Anderson, the latter two of whom were rookies last season. Anderson didn't see the field, but Bell did get playing time down the stretch though he didn't do much. He showed some promise as a receiver, but his playing time wasn't extensive enough to get a feel for what he can offer.

So, as far as I see it ... Celek has some potential, McDonald is a lost cause (sorry McDonald fans) and we don't really know what the 49ers have in Bell and Anderson. As such, I don't think there's much more room on the roster for another tight end. That is to say, I think they need a better starter and if this was a strong draft class for the position, I might advocate getting one and cutting somebody.

This is not a strong draft class.

  • Hunter Henry (Arkansas)
  • Austin Hooper (Stanford)
  • Nick Vannett (Ohio State)
  • Jerell Adams (South Carolina)
  • Tyler Higbee (Western Kentucky)
  • Bryce Williams (East Carolina)
  • Ben Braunecker (Harvard
  • Temarrick Hemingway (South Carolina State)
  • Beau Sandland (Montana State)
  • Henry Krieger Coble (Iowa)
  • David Morgan II (Texas-San Antonio)
  • Darlon Griswold (Arkansas State)
  • Tanner McEvoy (Wisconsin)
  • David J. Grinnage (NC State)

I've listed everyone that, by my estimation, is likely to be drafted. Naturally, there will be other guys I didn't list who make it, but I've finally got around to my own draft study and I truly ... don't see much to work with here. My first clue was when I watched the NFL Scouting Combine and saw a pretty poor performance from everyone involved.

Honestly, I'm not sure there is anybody here worthy of even a second-round pick, though I imagine the top three guys could go in said round if a team is desperate. I just hope the 49ers are not that team.

Henry didn't run the 40-yard dash and had a poor showing in his field drills at the combine. But he's at the top of the list and that means he'll get drafted first, in all likelihood. Henry had 51 receptions for 739 yards and three touchdowns with Arkansas in 2015 and has a high ceiling. One bonus is that he's a capable blocker, which makes him at least somewhat attractive.

Hooper is a questionable blocker, but in his time with Stanford he established himself as a potential mismatch kind of player and that's where his value lies. A team like the New England Patriots could bring him in and turn him into a star, or he could get drafted by the Los Angeles Rams and never get heard from again.

Adams, McGee and Duarte are also decent receiving options with high potential but little excellent film or workouts to go by. Vannett reminds me a lot of stone hands McDonald and that scares me, personally.

In other words, I don't see the 49ers drafting a tight end. And that's a good thing.