The San Francisco 49ers continue to look at potential tight end prospects. It started with the team having an interest in Austin Hooper. Earlier in the week, The Athletic’s Matt Barrows reported that the Niners had met with Jordan Reed’s agent. Barrows wrote on Thursday that the 49ers had met with a couple of other tight ends. Many have asked why San Francisco is interested in so many tight ends with Ross Dwelley on the team. My answer is that you always are looking to improve. Was Dwelley bad last year? No. Did he do enough to show you that you can’t get better? No. Dwelley is also in the final season of his contract. With George Kittle’s inevitable extension around the corner, the 49ers will look to take some of the heavy lifting off of Kittle’s plate.
Barrows pointed out that Kittle played in 88% of the regular season, and 97% of the playoff snaps. San Francisco blew two opponents out prior to the Super Bowl. There’s no reason for Kittle to be on the field in the fourth quarter in either of those games. If Kyle Shanahan had someone he felt confident in, he likely pulls Kittle in both contests. Knowing how Kyle likes to use fullbacks and tight ends to keep defenses in their base packages, it makes sense why the 49ers have been interested in a handful of tight ends.
The team met with Washington’s tight end, Hunter Bryant. Add UCLA’s Devin Asiasi and Virginia Tech’s Dalton Keene to the list, per Barrows. Sports Info Solutions’ rookie handbook graded Asiasi was a low-end starter:
Asiasi is extremely smooth and savvy with his route running, but without improved blocking technique, he may prove to just be a big receiver playing tight end. On third downs, he will be a reliable option with his route savvy and mismatch ability against nickel defenders.
Asiasi graded as a 6.5, which was good for the sixth-best tight end on SIS’s scale. I asked Emory Hunt, who scouts these players for a living, what he thought of Asiasi. Emory said he has the run after catch skills that you want and compared him to a healthy, wait for it, Jordan Reed.
Keene was a 5.8, which was 21st and came out to a backup tight end. The good news is Keene led all tight ends with 8.4 yards after the catch. Here is his blurb:
Keene projects to be a backup tight end. He will mainly be used to block but can be used to catch passes when needed. If used on third down, e would be asked to pass block most of the time but can be snuck out to the flat to catch defenders off guard. His lack of ideal play speed and strength will limit his overall special teams’ ability.
These are written up before the combine. Keene is 6’4”, 253 pounds and ran a 4.71 40-yard dash, jumped 34” in the vertical, with a 7.07 3-cone drill and a 4.19 short shuttle, which led all tight ends. His 10’5” broad jump led all tight ends as well. Hello. Usage tends to throw people off. Because Keene wasn’t asked to do something, I wonder if it came off like he’s not an athlete. Here is Keene front squatting 315 pounds:
Keene finished the season with 21 receptions for 240 yards and five touchdowns. His best trait? Google Keene to see his mustache.
As it stands, the 49ers continue to look at athletic tight ends to pair with Kittle.