San Francisco 49ers: Who is tight end Logan Paulsen?

Jun 13, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end Logan Paulsen (82) catches the ball during the San Francisco 49ers minicamp at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end Logan Paulsen (82) catches the ball during the San Francisco 49ers minicamp at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

Niner Noise’s annual “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players this season takes a look at free-agent pickup, tight end Logan Paulsen, and his fit with the roster.

The San Francisco 49ers brought in veteran tight end Logan Paulsen for one major reason.

Well, they brought him in for more than that. But the primary objective will be for Paulsen to act as a mentor for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s complex offense.

Paulsen worked under Shanahan’s tutelage when both were with the Washington Redskins from 2010 through 2013.

Logan Paulsen Receiving Table
5 yr5 yrWAS75421257980110.16331.110.7
1 yr1 yrCHI1612103155.0070.20.9

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/20/2017.

And despite Paulsen being known primarily as a blocking tight end, Shanahan was able to utilize him to a moderate extent as a receiving threat.

Comparing Paulsen’s 2012 campaign, where he had 308 receiving yards, to that of current Niners’ No. 1 tight end, Vance McDonald (391 yards in 2016), and there isn’t much of a dramatic drop off.

Paulsen, who is 30 years old, could unseat McDonald as the primary starter this season because, if for no other reason, the former knows the offense.

Oh, and the 49ers tried to trade McDonald too. That makes a difference.

San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers /

San Francisco 49ers

Why He’ll Improve

In terms of offensive production, it might be a stretch to assume Paulsen hits the stat sheet harder than even the best of years in Washington.

Although, Paulsen does have the scheme knowledge. Paired with the fact San Francisco is still trying to develop a dynamic wide receiver group, the veteran tight end could see an increase in targets from the last few years.

But Paulsen’s game is more on the blocking side. Last year, according to Pro Football Focus, Paulsen graded out with a 75.2 run-blocking and 68.8 pass-blocking mark — far better than the 58.0 and 60.7 marks McDonald put up last year, respectively.

McDonald isn’t the only obstacle in the way of Paulsen climbing the depth chart. 2016 returnees, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell, also provide competition. And the Niners added rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini as well.

Still, Paulsen could easily wind up being the No. 1 tight end by Week 1 and would have the chance to see his numbers spike.

Why He’ll Regress

At his age, it’s hard to know just how long Paulsen will be able to contribute at a notable level. He’s not the fastest of receivers. And while his 6-foot-5, 268-pound frame can create some mismatches, it’s not as if he’s known for creating separation on receiving routes.

This is one of the reasons Paulsen has never been known as a reliable pass catcher, as his 60.7 career-catch percentage suggests.

And the Niners may not be looking at Paulsen to contribute in the passing game much anyway.

Players like Kittle and Hikutini have a far higher ceiling as offensive threats than the veteran. And while their rookie skill sets are still raw, the 49ers would ideally like to place them in situations where they can provide a major impact beyond just blocking.

What to Expect in 2017

Paulsen’s roster spot is all but guaranteed, given his knowledge of the offense.

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It wouldn’t be a shock to see him assume the No. 1 TE spot to start the season, especially if San Francisco moves McDonald, Celek and/or Bell — two such moves should be expected.

This would free up some space, which is important for players like Kittle and Hikutini, especially.

Until either one of those younger learns the offense sufficiently enough, the top job may be Paulsen’s to lose.

Next: Ranking the 49ers' 10 most important players of 2017

After that, Paulsen still occupies a key role as a blocker and No. 2 tight end. But let’s get to Week 1 before speculating what his role is by the end of 2017.