Niner Noise’s annual “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players in 2017 takes a look at veteran tight end Garrett Celek and his fit with the current roster.
The San Francisco 49ers made some substantial changes at tight end this offseason, but veteran TE Garrett Celek appears to be a part of the team’s plans moving forward.
At least for now.
Celek, a five-year veteran, enjoyed his best season at the NFL level last year — logging 29 receptions for 350 yards and three touchdowns:
Never getting much of a chance before 2015, should we expect more this season?
San Francisco 49ers
Why He’ll Improve
San Francisco’s new regime of general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan already made it known they’d be willing to move on from incumbent No. 1 tight end Vance McDonald.
A pre-NFL Draft never materialized. But at least McDonald has been part of trade rumors, while Celek hasn’t. Either way, few teams would probably give up anything to grab the 6-foot-5, 252-pound veteran.
Celek, who has shown enough in the blocking game, revealed he can be a decent pass-catching option as well. Assuming McDonald doesn’t make the 53-man roster, Celek’s chances to climb the depth chart are notably high.
He’d have to overtake offseason free-agent pickup Logan Paulsen and rookie draftee George Kittle. But Kittle is unproven at the pro level, and Paulsen is known more for being a blocker than a receiving option.
Why He’ll Regress
Paulsen knows Shanahan’s offense, from both of their days with the Washington Redskins. And while Paulsen isn’t exactly a premier pass-catcher, he did manage a similar stat line under Shanahan during three seasons in Washington.
This alone could bump Paulsen up the depth chart over Celek.
Tack on Kittle’s promise — as we’ve talked about here arleady — and Celek may be relegated to No. 3 TE duties again in 2017.
Celek obviously isn’t the pick from San Francisco’s new regime, and the fact both Lynch and Shanahan have made moves at this position — including trying to move McDonald — doesn’t bode well for Celek either.
So it’s possible, perhaps likely, Celek is the forgotten commodity here.
What to Expect in 2017
Kittle may wind up being the starter at tight end, but don’t expect that to happen right away. And the Niners may be willing to hold onto McDonald at least for another season or so.
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The latter isn’t the ideal situation for Celek, as Paulsen has likely pushed the former down the depth chart already. It’s a preference move from Shanahan.
At best, Celek likely winds up being the No. 2 tight end behind Paulsen or McDonald to kick off 2017. It’s a position he holds until Kittle winds up taking the reigns, pushing both Paulsen and Celek down in the process.
Celek’s chances of making the roster are still pretty good. But sticking around beyond this season will be a stretch.