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Garrett Celek made the most of his opportunities after the catch in 2017

The 49ers got solid production from their tight ends. Can they build on it in 2018?

Yards after catch (YAC) is regularly mentioned in discussing pass catchers, but like many basic counting stats, it does not offer much context. YAC could come from a missed tackle, a great move, or a well-placed pass.

Football Outsiders developed a stat called YAC+ to try and figure out how a pass catcher performs after the catch compared to what the norm would be. No stat is perfect, but it offers a little more context. Here’s how they describe it:

[I]t estimates how much YAC a receiver gained compared to what we would have expected from an average receiver catching passes of similar length in similar down-and-distance situations. This is imperfect due to variations in YAC stemming from the routes the receivers run, but it does a fairly good job of telling you if this receiver gets more or less YAC than other receivers with similar usage patterns.

I can only find their analysis dating back to 2014, and from then through 2016, Rob Gronkowski led NFL tight ends in YAC+ (minimum 25 targets). Last season, Gronkowski ranked No. 13 among tight ends. Your leader? San Francisco 49ers tight end Garrett Celek!

Celek ranked No. 1, nearly doubling Marcedes Lewis. 49ers tight end George Kittle ranked eighth. It is worth noting that Celek’s 33 targets last season included one play that was the second highest YAC+, which inflated his number to some degree. That being said, he ranked No. 12 in 2016 on 47 targets, so it’s not entirely out of the blue.

The 49ers did not make any notable additions to their tight end depth chart this offseason. They signed Cole Wick to a Reserve/Future contract and they signed Ross Dwelley as an undrafted free agent. Celek and Kittle will be the top two guys in some order, with Kittle likely taking control of the No. 1 tight end role. Cole Hikutini is likely the front-runner for the third tight end spot, if the 49ers carry a third tight end. Wick and Dwelley are competing for a spot, but are most likely headed to the practice squad at best.