There has been much debate this off-season as to whether or not the 49ers should draft a tight end. Greg Clark the current starting tight end is an incredible blocker with average hands. He makes an impact in the running game but the team often shies away from using him in the passing game. Clark is also injury prone. Behind Clark, there is Brian Jennings, Justin Swift and Terrence Dupree. The team used Jennings as a long snapper, and rarely as a regular tight end. Justin Swift has not been very effective, and Terrence Dupree the teams most promising prospect spent the season on injured reserve. At the very least, the team should be looking to add depth to this position, and a pick in this years draft may be the way to do that.
This year's draft offers several good tight ends. The group is headed by Todd Heap and Alge Crumpler who are a cut above their counterparts in the draft. Both are well-rounded athletes that would benefit any team they join, and are likely to go early in the draft.
Todd Heap…6-4…252 lbs
Heap is the best tight end in the draft. He is fast, has good body control and is a reliable receiver with good hands and the ability to adjust to the ball. He has a good football sense, and has benefited from playing lots of basketball too. Heap could use some bulk and muscle to aid in his blocking at the next level.
Alge Crumpler…6-2…266 lbs
The most complete tight end in the draft. He is an excellent blocker, with good speed. His hands and receiving abilities are great despite not being thrown to a lot in college. Crumpler does have a history of injuries though, including a reconstructed knee. He is the brother or former NFL tight end Carlester Crumpler.
Jabari Holloway…6-2…253 lbs
Holloway is an above average tight end at all aspects, but isn't great at one single aspect of the position. He has good hands, runs good routes and can block well. Could have benefited from more playtime, and likely has more potential than he was given the chance to show.
Tony Stewart…6-5…256 lbs
Stewart is extremely impressive in the short to intermediate passing range. He is able to easily find holes, and uses his whole body as a target. Excels primarily as a receiver. He does need to improve at the point of attack, where more strength is needed. Could be a solid tight end in the NFL given a little more strength.
Arthur Love…6-3…236 lbs
Love is a very good athlete. He can run catch and is willing to block. He is however very rough around the edges. He has all the tools to make it in the NFL, but really needs more coaching to work on footwork, blocking schemes and route running.
Brandon Manumaleuna…6-2…275 lbs
Brandon plays all out on every play. He is shorter than most at his position, and may fit the mold better as a guard. He is not quick, and needs help with his route running. He does however have good hands, and is a great blocker.
Brian Natkin…6-2…251 lbs
Natkin has good hands and is a good route runner. He's a tough player but is limited athletically. He needs much work on his blocking to make it at the next level. Natkin is a solid prospect, but won't be very effective until he has gone through a solid NFL coaching program.
Jevaris Johnson…6-5…257 lbs
Johnson is a receiving specialist. He has great hands and is able to adjust to the ball. Has ok speed and needs to learn to run better routes. Is not much of a blocker, given his size, he should be more physical.
Mike Roberg…6-4…256 lbs
Roberg has improved his stock at the combine, and that should worry some of us. He has size, speed and can catch, but didn't show great talent during the season. He has very good athleticism for a tight end, but needs work on blocking and technique.
Dauntae Finger…6-4…262 lbs
Finger is more of a blocker than a receiver. He has great size, and soft hands. Not a quick runner, nor is he speedy. Needs to work on route running and creating separation.
This years draft is not the best tight end class ever seen, but it is average with lots of players who have bright upsides. Heap and Crumpler are miles ahead of the rest, but will likely be out of reach by the time the 49ers draft. Given that Greg Clark is an excellent blocker, if the 49ers go with a tight end at any point in the draft, he will likely be more of the receiving type.
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