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49ers tight end production in need of an overhaul

The 49ers have added three tight ends of note this offseason, and it makes sense to make some changes.

The San Francisco 49ers attempted to trade Vance McDonald leading up to the draft, with John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan acknowledging as much during the draft. Although the 49ers entered the offseason with plenty of tight ends, there were question marks about all of them. And considering the team was coming off a 2-14 season, it is no surprise the team would look to improve the position.

Recent numbers suggest that from a passing perspective, it might be a good idea to make some changes. Pro Football Focus tracks drop rate, and Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek have both struggled. David Neumann posted that McDonald had the worst drop rate among tight ends from 2013-16, while Jeff Deeney posted that Garrett Celek had the worst drop rate this past season.

The 49ers drafted George Kittle and signed veteran Logan Paulsen and rookie free agent Cole Hikutini. They will be competing with McDonald, Celek, and Blake Bell. It remains to be seen if the 49ers will keep three or four tight ends, but there will be at least two new tight ends between Kittle and Paulsen. Hikutini could claim a spot, but there is a decent chance he ends up on the practice squad.

Tight ends are important to Shanahan’s offense, even if they don’t accumulate huge numbers. The Atlanta Falcons fifth most used formation featured three tight ends. They primarily used three receivers and one tight end, but they used plenty of two tight ends as well. Shanahan’s tight ends were Jacob Tamme, Levine Toilolo, and rookie Austin Hooper, so it’s not like he had big names at the position. But as the 49ers look for new option, expect significant changes at the position.