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49ers roster breakdowns, 90-in-90: TE Cole Hikutini

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Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Next up is TE Cole Hikutini.

Louisville v Boston College Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.

The San Francisco 49ers signed Cole Hikutini as a priority UDFA, calling him just ten minutes after the draft ended. We took a look at just how badly the 49ers wanted Hikutini.

The Sacramento native was a wide receiver in high school and converted to tight end for college, first at FCS Sacramento State, then San Francisco City College, where he impressed enough to transfer to Louiville. He had a strong senior season under Bobby Petrino with 50 catches, 668 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns, good enough to make him a semifinalist for the Mackey Award (best college tight end).

Basic info

Age: 22 (23 on June 11)
Experience: rookie
Height: 6’4
Weight: 247 lbs
Arm Length: 32 3/4"
Hand Size: 10”
Pronounced: hick-uh-TEE-nee

Why he might succeed in the NFL

He’s big enough to be a legit move tight end at the next level, is quick (if not fast) and has good hands and ball skills, as you might expect from an ex-WR. He should be an asset in the red zone as well, at least on pass plays.

Also, Hikutini may have untapped potential. He only played one year of football in high school, is NFL-sized, and has done well moving up the levels of competition. Also, he suffered an injury in the Citrus Bowl, straining his PCL (posterior cruciate ligament), which undoubtedly hurt his test scores (4.85 in the 40 at his Pro Day, for example). That at least offers hope that he might be more impressive as he recovers.

If nothing else, he’s familiar with San Francisco parking, and is perfect for bars to name drinks after. (“A dirty Hikutini with an olive, please.”)

Why he might not

By consensus, he was flat out bad at run blocking in college, and it’s not going to get any easier in the NFL. Rotoworld called him “[a]lmost a complete non-factor at blocking;” NFL.com’s scouting report said “Needs to get tougher as a blocker. Not physical enough for that in-line life.”

Unless he improves or demonstrates value in some other way — such as special teams — a UDFA tight end who can’t block is just a tall, slow receiver.

Odds of making the roster

San Francisco is probably his best chance of making the NFL, since the team doesn’t have a single indispensable (or even impressive) tight end on the roster, and GM John Lynch is clearly not reluctant to remake this roster. To survive, Hikutini will have to beat out one of the team’s veterans, demonstrate special teams value, and show that he’s recovered more from his injury.

One factor that may be in his favor is that the team has acquired two excellent blockers with tight end skill sets: rookie George Kittle and veteran FB Kyle Juszczyk. With four or five roster spots open at tight end, there may be room for a move TE who’s frankly not much of a run blocker. Yet.