The last time we looked at the San Francisco 49ers roster bubble for the tight end position, there was plenty of talk that Vance McDonald could be traded. I still think it’s possible that McDonald gets traded, but barring that, he seems to be impressing the new regime and I have to figure he is going to be on the roster in 2017.
Previously, Fooch listed George Kittle as the sole lock, Logan Paulsen, Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek as strong bubble, Cole Hikutini and Blake Bell as weak bubble and no longshots.
In the latest depth chart released by the team, the tight ends are listened in this order: McDonald, Kittle, Paulsen, Celek, Bell and then Hikutini. By my estimation, that’s a decent look at where things stand overall, even if preseason depth charts can be deceiving.
From where I’m sitting, McDonald has performed well in practice and has looked decent in the preseason while Kittle has a ton of promise and is NFL-ready from the onset. Logan Paulsen and Garrett Celek fulfill something of the same role and I could see both making it or neither making it.
Here’s my estimation of the roster bubble as it stands:
Lock: Vance McDonald, George Kittle
Strong Bubble: Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek
Weak Bubble: Blake Bell
Longshot: Cole Hikutini
It was difficult to downgrade Bell, but it really seems like he’s marked as another coach’s project and therefore unimportant. He’s not picking up the nuances of the position in the NFL as fast as he needs to, and there’s no reason to expect he should ever be on the field over, say, Kittle.
Hikutini has been quiet as well, so I think the way I’ve set it up is fairly accurate. I don’t know if the 49ers are going to keep three or four tight ends. If they keep four, it’s possible that only one of the strong bubble players makes it while Bell sneaks on because his skillset is so different compared to Paulsen and Celek.
As far as the practice squad goes, I think that’s where Hikutini is headed. I don’t think the 49ers have to worry about another team taking him, but who knows? For now, this is what I’m going with. What say you?