• Zach Pratt

Zach's Draft Corner: Tight End Position Breakdown

Image Credit: Albert Cesare / The Enquirer

Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.

Continuing my series on realistic targets for the 49ers in the draft process.This week, we turn to one of the most interesting position groups in the league: tight end. As with most position groups, now that we have three years of Kyle Shanahan and a decent idea of the players on the 49ers roster, here are a few things that we can say for certainty.

Kyle Shanahan Values Blocking

Many teams can get away with an Evan Engram at tight end, as they run the ball less than 50 percent of the time and simply want the biggest, most athletic receiving tight end that they can get their hands on. Not Shanny. Kyle Shanahan wants tight ends that can block first and foremost, and then tight ends that can also catch are just the icing on the cake. It's more valuable to Shanahan to have a tight end that can block and understand soft spots in a zone than a tight end who can't block and can beat man coverage, because he disguises so many plays that the versatility is key.

The 49ers Do Not Need A Star

If you haven't heard, the 49ers have this guy by the name of George Kittle. He's (*insert Larry David voice*) pretty good. While players like Cole Kmet, Brycen Hopkins, Adam Trautman, and Thaddeus Moss have much higher potential than some of the guys I'm going to include here, the draft capital needed to take those players is too much for the position the 49ers find themselves in. The impact made by a backup tight end does not warrant a pick in the first two days of the draft.

The 49ers Want Another Tight End

The 49ers knew the players they had on the roster last year, and still drafted Kaden Smith in the 6th round. While Smith was not good enough to beat out the likes of Ross Dwelley or Levine Toilolo, the 49ers still likely want a guy in the day three or undrafted range. While they don't need a stud, they could still use a player.

Given these certainties, which late-round prospects should you keep your eyes on? Detailed notes on most of the players below are unnecessary. For the most part, they all have a similar profile: average athleticism, limited upside as a true, stretch-the-field, dominant weapon on offense, shown good tape as an inline blocker, and reliable hands when they do leak out onto routes. For the most part, it's just pick who you prefer.

Colby Parkinson, Stanford

6'7 1/4", 252 pounds

Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati

6'2 3/8", 242 pounds

Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt

6'4", 257 pounds

Sean McKeon, Michigan

6'5", 242 pounds

Dalton Keene, Virginia Tech

6'4 1/8", 253 pounds

I'm saving the best for last, because he breaks the mold a little. Keene was the most athletic tight end at the combine, and while the tight end class was relatively underwhelming, he still had a SPARQ score in the 80.1 percentile. Keene is the type of versatile weapon that Shanahan loves. Virginia Tech lined him up inline, in the backfield as a fullback, and out wide. Keene was a reliable receiver who, while he couldn't consistently stretch the field, showed enough athleticism to at least slightly be a weapon after the catch. Where Keene falls behind some of his counterparts is in blocking, but it doesn't seem to be too worrisome. There are some technical issues, such as getting too high in his stance and shooting his hands too wide on his initial punch, but he puts maximum effort into blocking and is still able to slow down those he is blocking. If he can fix the technical issues, with his versatility, athleticism, and motor, he could be the backup tight end of Shanahan's dreams.

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