The San Francisco 49ers offense looks very well set at most positions, however the consensus is the team requires a threat for the red zone. Perhaps an NFL Draft selection of Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson fixes that need.
While most of the focus will be on the defense for the San Francisco 49ers in the 2019 NFL Draft and free agency, the offense does still require a piece or two.
A minor tinkering in comparison to the attention the defense will receive, but no less important for the Niners to attend to, if they want to become a playoff team sooner rather than later.
While it’s popular to mock a wide receiver to the 49ers in the draft, or else link them to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown, which now looks a considerable long shot, I would argue that the Niners have a very good and young receiving corps.
While the 49ers are expected to move on from veteran wideout Pierre Garcon, they still command a decent group of receivers, with the added point quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo likes to spread the ball around and not concentrate on any one receiver.
With Dante Pettis, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor on the team, it could be a little crowded. Bourne can play the tall receiver role, Pettis can be put anywhere on the field, Taylor is an able slot guy, who will bounce back from an injury-riddled second year, Goodwin can score on any play and James is an exciting player who can catch, run and even pass the football.
But to make the offense more multi-dimensional, as well as improve the offensive prowess, what about a second tight end to complement George Kittle?
Kittle is, of course, a million different kinds of awesome, both on and off the field. But our own Peter Panacy made a convincing case when he named another Iowa tight end, T.J. Hockenson, as an option for the 49ers second round pick. Peter stated:
"Hockenson, at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, caught 49 passes for 760 yards and six touchdowns last season. Like his Iowa predecessor, Kittle, Hockenson is excellent with the ball in his hands and more than capable of picking up chunks of yards after the catch. Also like Kittle, Hockenson is effective in both run blocking and pass protection.This wouldn’t be the case of finding a raw, needing-some-refinement prospect later in the draft. No, Hockenson would double as yet another legitimate pass-catching weapon for San Francisco if selected."
It’s hard to argue with that. Kittle will no doubt be the focus of all opposing defenses next season. But with another Kittle clone on the other side of the line, defenses would be focused on stopping both, which would allow the receivers on the outside to run rampant on less attention.
Picking Hockenson seems like a luxury pick, but in reality it could be exactly what solves the red-zone woes for the 49ers (they ranked dead last in touchdown efficiency here in 2018, after all).
Teams would have to focus inside more on Kittle and Hockenson, the likes of Pettis and Bourne can handle one-on-one coverage with their route running as a result, and allow Garoppolo to target them.
Alternately if the defense decides not to focus on the tight ends, I wish good luck on them allowing two talented tight ends loose.
Well I lie, I actually wish them horrible luck, but you get the idea.
We’ve seen the 49ers go the unexpected route before, and with the offensive mind of head coach Kyle Shanahan, it’s hard to not see him at least consider the possibilities.
For example, you can also put Kittle or Hockenson outside or in the slot as a mismatch, similar to how the New England Patriots so successfully use their tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Do the Niners really need to add a receiver when they could use a tight end group that would instantly be one of the best in the NFL?
I don’t expect this to be the most popular idea ever, but it’s one I urge every fan to look at.
If the 49ers go with Hockenson in the second round, it could be the shot in the arm the 49ers offense needs.