The San Francisco 49ers kick off their organized team practice activities (OTAs) on May 21st. Those will run through June 7th, followed by mandatory minicamp June 12th through 14th. This is as important a period as any in the offseason. Players have been going through classroom work, and had individual work on the field. OTAs and minicamp are when teams really get to implement the playbook and get players ready for training camp.
This also means players can take a step forward in competitions for either a starting job or simply a chance to make the roster. We’re less than two weeks away from the start of OTAs, so I thought now is a good time to preview each position heading into the on-field workouts.
Today, we move on to the tight end position.
Depth chart: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini, Cole Wick, Ross Dwelley
The 49ers signed Cole Wick to a reserve/future contract after the season ended, and then signed Ross Dwelley as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 NFL Draft. Logan Paulsen departed in free agency, leaving Wick, Dwelley, and Cole Hikutini competing for an opportunity behind George Kittle and Garrett Celek.
Last season, the lead tight end role saw some rotation. Both Kittle and Celek led the depth chart in snaps at different times. Kittle dealt with an assortment of injuries, and while he was active for 15 of 16 games, it seemed like the injuries cost him to some extent. If he is back to 100 percent from his various injuries, this offseason will be big for him to clamp down on the top tight end role.
For the time being, Hikutini would seem to be the front-runner for the No. 3 tight end role. He opened the season on the practice squad, but after five weeks was promoted to the 53-man roster. He was active the next four weeks before an MCL sprain put him on season-ending injured reserve.
What OTAs mean for the position
Kittle will look to build on a solid first season, but the biggest question is what to make of Hikutini, Wick, and Dwelley. Hikutini has a year in the system, which would seem to give him a huge leg up on Wick or Dwelley. The latter has the most ground to pick up given his more recent addition to the roster. Expectations might be lower for him with the coaching staff heading into OTAs, but maybe that means a strong showing gives him that much bigger a bump.
Can any of these three do more than just claim that third tight end job?