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Positional Analysis Tight Ends
January 24 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
Bill Walsh must be happy. During last seasonís draft, Bill Walsh happened to fall in love with the 49ers seventh round pick - so much so that the nickname ďBillís SonĒ caught on to the wide receiver converted tight end, Eric Johnson. It was the striking resemblance to Brent Jones that drew Walsh to Johnson, and after one season he seems to be right.

So thanks to Bill Walsh, the 49ers are once again confident in their tight end position. Eric Johnson is once again slated to start, and with a season and an extra training camp behind him, itís safe to say that his blocking (Johnsonís weak spot) should improve. Johson provides the 49ers with an extra dimension in the offense, as he is such a good receiver, and route runner. Providing he continues to improve his run blocking the 49ers will have cemented their tight end for years to come.

Greg Clark was put on the expansion draft list. While at this point itís impossible to know if the Texans will pick him up, it is a fair guess he wont be on the 49ers squad next season unless the Texans pass on him and he takes a huge pay cut. Clark is a stellar blocking tight end, and had adequate hands, unfortunately due largely to injuries Clark never became the tight end the 49ers were hoping for. His injuries also cost him the starting spot, giving Eric Johnson an opportunity he doesnít appear to be relinquishing.

Justin Swift is likely to remain on the 49ers squad next season. Swift is a young player, excels mainly in the blocking aspect of the game. Swift fit well into his role with the team, and although he doesnít seem to have Ďsuperstarí talent is certainly more than adequate at his position.

Brian Jennings is essentially the 49ers emergency tight end. Jennings spends the bulk of his time as the teamís long snapper where he is one of the leagues best. The 49ers have the utmost confidence in Jennings, and thus there is little reason to believe his roster spot would be in jeopardy.

The 49ers are very happy with the emergence of Eric Johnson. They are also quite happy with Justin Swift. Greg Clark seems to be on his way out, and with that, it seems reasonable to expect the 49ers to bring in another tight end in the back up role. This could be done in the later draft rounds or through un-drafted free agency, but likely not through regular free agency.

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