49ers draft outlook: Tight ends

49ers draft outlook: Tight ends
May 2, 2014, 12:30 pm
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With the tight end playing an intricate role in the 49ers' offensive system, they will look to bring in competition in this year's draft. (USATSI)

C.J. Fiedorowicz looks the part of a 49er tight end and would be an upgrade at the No. 3 spot. (USATSI)

Editor’s note: Insider Matt Maiocco will have draft content every day leading up to the NFL Draft (May 8-10), including position breakdowns, retrospectives, mock drafts and more; bookmark our Road to the NFL Draft

The 49ers selected Vance McDonald in the second round of the draft a year ago, and many outside the organization apparently expected him to be something Delanie Walker was not.

Walker was never a big-time producer in the passing game with the 49ers. He caught just 33 passes in his first three seasons. Over the course of his seven seasons in San Francisco, Walker averaged less than 18 receptions and 210 yards per season. He had eight touchdown catches in seven years.

In four college seasons at Rice, McDonald caught 119 passes for 1,504 yards and 15 touchdowns. As an NFL rookie, he was used primarily as a blocker. He caught just eight passes for 119 yards and no touchdowns. That role did not catch McDonald by surprise.

“I definitely kind of got the vibe of what we wanted to establish as an offense,” McDonald said after the season. “We wanted to be a definite run team. We wanted to establish the line of scrimmage. And we had the players to do it and the offensive line to do it. We had the running backs to do it. It was a big focus. So I definitely wasn’t surprised.”

Who's here: Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Derek Carrier

Draft needs: Davis and McDonald appear entrenched as the 49ers’ top two tight ends. Celek and Carrier showed plenty of promise on the practice field. But with 11 picks, the 49ers are in the market for more bulk. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman loves to employ extra blockers in short-yardage situations, and the 49ers have been looking at some big tight ends during their draft evaluations.

Good fits: The 49ers scheduled private visits with C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa) and Nic Jacobs (McNeese State). Fiedorowicz is 265 pounds, while Jacobs weighed in at 269 at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. It’s clear that if the 49ers invest one of their 11 draft picks to bring in more competition at tight end, they’ll be seeking a big-bodied player who will be more of a factor in the running game than as a pass catcher.