Five 49ers Who Need to Make the Leap in 2016
Another member of a 2013 draft class that has yielded mixed returns, tight end Vance McDonald finally began to produce in the 2015 season.
McDonald caught 30 of his 46 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns, by far his most productive season, but continued to have problems with drops at key moments in games.
The impact of those drops in a lost year for the 49ers was minimal, however, from a personal perspective McDonald can no longer afford to have issues with his hands with competition increasing at the tight end position.
Bruce Miller’s transition from fullback to tight end gives the 49ers an option in the passing game, who has previously proven reliable, while Garrett Celek was rewarded with a four-year contract after a promising 2015 season was curtailed by injury.
Blake Bell produced flashes that showed why the 49ers were willing to take a gamble on the converted former quarterback in the fourth round in 2015, and Rory Anderson who, at 6-foot-4 and 246 pounds, is blessed with startling athleticism and will be pushing for a place on the 53-man roster after spending his rookie season stashed on the injured-reserve list.
The tight end hasn’t been a prominent feature of Chip Kelly’s offense, and the Niners coach will likely have little time for one who cannot be relied on to consistently catch the football despite his skills as a run-blocker.
Given his blocking abilities and decent 2015, McDonald should make the 53-man roster. But expect him to be allowed to walk should he be unable to excel as a receiver in 2016.
Next: Dontae Johnson