Niner Noise looks at veteran San Francisco 49ers tight end Cole Wick in our latest “Who Is?” series. Is he a dark-horse addition for the 53-man roster in 2018?
Yet the Niners added another body to the fray late last year, Cole Wick.
Signed to San Francisco’s practice squad last October, the 6-foot-6 and 257-pound Wick entered the league in 2016 as an undrafted free agent after signing with the Detroit Lions. He managed to appear in six games his rookie year, logging two receptions for 18 yards. He didn’t make the Lions roster the following season, though, and the 49ers managed to grab him shortly thereafter.
Playing his college ball at the University of the Incarnate Word, Wick’s collegiate accolades showcased some moderate contribution:
These numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, though, as Incarnate Word isn’t exactly known for being a football powerhouse.
Still, the Niners felt as if the big-bodied tight end was worth the development, although he came with some notable injury risks.
Why Cole Wick Improves in 2018
Wick definitely has size on his side, and tight ends are often a spot on the roster where teams can exploit mismatches. Simply put, there aren’t too many safeties and linebackers capable of matching up with a 6-foot-6 frame.
But Wick hasn’t exactly established himself as a pass catcher, rather he fits the bill as a reliable blocker in both the run game and in pass protection. It’s important, as the 49ers parted ways with oft-cut Logan Paulsen — one of the better blocking tight ends in the game — this offseason.
Those were traits Wick’s college coach, Larry Kennan, thought the tight end would excel in at the NFL level.
San Francisco 49ers
It’s possible San Francisco envisions Wick emerging as a No. 3 tight end on the depth chart, where he could fit in jumbo packages and as a reserve blocking option should Celek suffer an injury of sorts.
Why He Regresses
While tight ends help create mismatches by size, they also need to do so by speed in many cases.
Wick doesn’t have this, having ran a 4.93 40-yard time at his pro day back in 2016. That’s close to the top speeds of offensive linemen. It might not be a problem for Wick if he’s solely handling straight-on blocks. But this would likely negate any movement skills in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s system. And those are important.
Plus, there are those two injuries (knee and shoulder) from his 2016 efforts.
It also doesn’t bode well the 49ers never considered promoting him from the practice squad last season, particularly with Paulsen on and off the roster multiple times in the year. This is a likely indication Wick won’t get too many looks in training camp, which hurts his chances.
Chances of Making the 49ers’ 53-Man Roster in 2018
Wick is a long shot, at best. The lack of movement skills means he’d be a worthy blocker on mostly just the simplest of plays. Anything involving bootlegs or zone-style movement would be highly difficult.
Yet Wick does have the ability to at least hold his blocks well, which improves his stock to a degree.
What it will eventually come down to is how San Francisco views the competition for its third tight end spot. Wick will battle it out with Hikutini, who isn’t known for his blocking yet possesses a great level of pass-catching ability.
The team also brought aboard 2018 UDFA tight end Ross Dwelley, who might have a bit more upside than Wick. Both are eligible for the practice squad, so this camp battle might come down to who impresses more during the preseason.
And it’s likely that’s the only time you’ll hear Wick’s name called in 2018.