Walker's full-circle NFL evolution points toward playmaker


Walker's full-circle NFL evolution points toward playmaker

SANTA CLARA -- First he was only a receiver. Then he was only a blocker. Now, 49ers tight end Delanie Walker is emerging as one of the league's most versatile big-bodied playmakers.

Walker entered the league with the 49ers in 2006 and saw little action, in part because of the knock on his ability to occupy his opponent.

"People said I couldn't block when I first came in," Walker said. "So I focused on blocking a lot and got good at it.

"Now they're starting to use me a little too much at it," he added with a laugh.

Sunday's win over the Jets was indication that the playbook could be re-opening for Walker, as he was featured in a number of different offensive looks.

Implementing a new wrinkle in the first quarter, backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick was used to run the read-option, and it was Walker who was flanked left awaiting his toss. Walker also hauled in two catches for 31 yards on a day when there weren't many passes to be caught.

"We always start doing something new to put us in situations to win the game," Walker said. "And that option is one of them. Kaepernick can run the option well. He's got great speed down the field.

"We tried it out and it worked out perfectly."

Well, almost perfectly. True, Kaepernick used Walker as a decoy and picked up the first down before he was brought down for a 17-yard gain, but even once they got upfield, Walker was looking for the lateral, and he was looking at the end zone.

"Yeah," Walker answered when asked if he thought he had the touchdown. "I got back on level with him. I was on the left side of him waiting on the pitch. Hopefully if we run it again, he'll know that I'll be on his side."

Walker indicated that he practiced staying on Kaepernick's outside hip and the team focused on maintaining position for a potential pitch even after crossing the line of scrimmage. But it's not too surprising Kaepernick kept it himself; he is the only D1 quarterback ever to have passed for over 10,000 yards and rushed for over 4,000.

Walker, 28, provides matchup problems all over the field, and the 49ers have tried to manufacture plays that allow him to exploit his size and athleticism. At six-feet, 242-pounds, Walker has receptions as well as rushing attempts in each of the past four seasons.

Protected by weapons all around him, and benefiting from a full season under the belt of offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Walker's chances of making an impact with the ball in his hands have never been better. And while he likes the new-look plays geared toward getting him the ball in space, Walker hasn't forgotten the blocking skills that entrenched him as a part of the 49ers offense.

"My plays will come when they come," the seven-year veteran said. "I like doing whatever I got to do to help the team out."

49ers 2017 UDFA tracker: Southern Miss QB agrees to terms

49ers 2017 UDFA tracker: Southern Miss QB agrees to terms

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers are reportedly adding a fourth quarterback to their 90-man roster.

Nick Mullens a four-year starter at Southern Mississippi, agreed to terms with the 49ers after the conclusion of the Saturday’s NFL draft.

Mullens posted a drawing on Twitter from his childhood of "Joe Montana, Football Star." He wrote, "I've known about the @49ers since 2nd grade & now I can't wait to be apart of the organization! Ready to get to work in San Fran."

Draft picks, players who sign as undrafted rookies and other rookies invited for tryouts are scheduled to report Thursday for the 49ers' rookie minicamp. Practices will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

As a senior, Mullens (6 foot 1, 196 pounds) completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 3,272 yards with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Mullens joins a quarterback group that includes starter Brian Hoyer, backup Matt Barkley and third-round draft pick C.J. Beathard.

Other reported 49ers free-agent agreements include:

--TE Cole Hikutini, Louisville: He began his career with one-season stints at Sacramento State and City College of San Francisco before transferring to Louisville. Hikutini (6-4, 247) caught 50 passes for 668 yards and eight TDs in his final college season. Hikutini missed the Cardinals’ bowl game, the Senior Bowl and combine workouts due to a knee injury. He returned from the non-surgical injury to run at his pro day. Hikutini announced his signing with the 49ers via Twitter.

--DB Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis (PA): Jerome, a Senior Bowl invite, was named first-team FCS All-American. He intercepted six passes in 2016 with 59 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 11 pass break-ups. He added a touchdown on a kickoff return. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay ranked Jerome as the top undrafted player. Saint Francis announced the contract agreement.

--RB Matt Breida, Georgia Southern: In three seasons at Georgia Southern, Breida rushed for 3,740 yards and 37 touchdowns while averaging 6.9 yards a carry. Georgia Southern announced Breida's decision to sign with the 49ers.

--OL Erik Magnuson, Michigan: Magnuson (6-6, 305) was a first-team All-Big Ten performer who started every game at right tackle. He announced on Twitter that he has agreed to terms with the 49ers.

--WR Kendrick Bourne, Eastern Washington: He caught 211 passes for 3,130 yards and 27 touchdowns in his four-year career. Bourne (6-1, 203) had his best season as a senior, with 79 receptions for 1,201 yards and seven touchdowns. Eastern Washington announced Bourne’s three-year contract.

--OT Darrell Williams Jr., Western Kentucky: Williams (6-5, 315) started 41 games. He played his final two seasons at right tackle after moving from right guard. Western Kentucky announced the contract agreement with the 49ers.

--WR KD Cannon, Baylor: Cannon caught 195 passes for 3,113 and 27 touchdowns in his three-year career. He turned pro after a junior season in which he caught 87 passes for 1,215 yards and 13 touchdowns. He announced his contract agreement with the 49ers via Twitter.

--WR Victor Bolden, Oregon State: Bolden played four seasons at Oregon State, catching a total of 170 passes for 1,863 yards and seven touchdowns. Bolden (5-8 ¾, 178) ran 4.54 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine. (Bolden via Twitter)

--LB Jimmie Gilbert, Colorado (Colorado Football)

--OL J.P. Flynn, Montana (Flynn via Twitter)

--DE Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia (@WVUSports247)

--LB Donavin Newsom, Missouri (Columbia Daily Tribune)

--OL Bret Treadway (Treadway via Twitter)

--DB Jihaad Pretlow, Fordham (Instagram @la_rivers)

Lynch: TE McDonald to return to 49ers after being on trade block

Lynch: TE McDonald to return to 49ers after being on trade block

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers explored trade options for veteran tight end Vance McDonald during the three-day draft, but he is scheduled be back with the team when the club reports Monday for the fourth week of the offseason program.

“I think that’s the reality of new regimes coming, new schemes,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said Saturday at the conclusion the seven-round draft. “That’s not to say that he can’t fit into our scheme. Frankly, we received some interest from some other people, then we did explore some options throughout the league with Vance. Nothing ended up happening, so Vance will come back and have an opportunity to compete.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he called McDonald on Friday night to keep him updated on the team’s though process in pursuing trade options. McDonald was at his brother’s wedding, Shanahan said, so he left him a long voice message. McDonald responded Saturday morning with a text. Shanahan said the two men will speak on Monday in Santa Clara.

“We did take over a 2-14 team,” Shanahan said. “We don’t feel all the answers are here right now. We have a lot of work to do. We need to improve in any way possible. And we’re going to do that. We’re going to do that from an organizational standpoint. How can we improve the building? How can we improve the coaching staff? How can we improve the personnel department? How can we improve the players?

“Just from Vance’s text back, I think people understand that. I think it does make sense. I don’t think that’s something personal.”

Former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke signed off on a five-year contract extension for McDonald in December that consisted of a $7 million signing bonus. McDonald appeared in 11 games last season, catching 24 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns. The 49ers acquired McDonald as a second-round draft pick 2013. In 48 career games, McDonald has 64 receptions for 866 yards and seven touchdowns.

The 49ers signed veteran tight end Logan Paulsen in the offseason. On Saturday, the 49ers selected Iowa tight end George Kittle in the fifth round of the draft. Kittle joins fellow tight ends McDonald, Garrett Celek, Paulsen, Blake Bell and Je’Ron Hamm on the 49ers’ 90-man roster.