The San Francisco 49ers inked veteran tight end Levine Toilolo on Wednesday, and Niner Noise offers up predictions how the depth chart shapes up in 2019.
It was a modest need for the San Francisco 49ers in free agency and the 2019 NFL Draft, and it appears head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. were set on making some moves to bulk up the depth at tight end heading towards training camp.
The Niners inked former Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo to a one-year deal on Wednesday, adding a player familiar with Shanahan’s offense and one of the better pass blockers in the league at his position.
This creates some noteworthy competition between the 2018 Pro Bowler, George Kittle, who has already cemented himself as the most versatile and potent weapon here. Additionally, San Francisco selected former Stanford tight end Kaden Smith in Round 6 of this year’s NFL Draft.
Smith and Toilolo will be among the chief competitors for the backup spots behind Kittle. One could also throw in third-round NFL draftee, Baylor’s Jalen Hurd, who is technically listed as a wide receiver but could double as an H-back, of sorts.
For the sake of clarity, though, let’s leave Hurd at his listed position. As of now, here are the current tight ends on the 49ers’ 90-man offseason depth chart:
* denotes rookie
How 49ers’ Regular-Season Depth Chart Pans Out
It’s likely Shanahan keeps three tight ends on his roster entering Week 1, which is commonplace for most teams. Kittle, after his NFL record-breaking season last year, is a no-brainer, of course. And Smith looks to be fairly safe, barring injury or a complete meltdown during training camp.
After that, however, things get a bit cloudy.
Dwelley seems to be on the out, especially since the Niners now have far more invested at the position. In camp, his likely competition is going to be Mayfield, the undrafted rookie out of Wyoming, who managed to show off some notable skills at San Francisco’s rookie minicamp earlier.
That might not be enough to warrant placement for Mayfield on the regular-season 53-man roster. Yet if the 49ers try to sneak Mayfield onto the practice squad, it wouldn’t be shocking at all.
Essentially, the real camp battle is between Toilolo, Smith and Celek, with Smith the likeliest to be guaranteed a roster spot. Where he is on the depth chart, however, remains an open question.
Toilolo is known for his pass-blocking abilities, whereas Celek was flagged six times over the course of 2018 against just five receptions. With a dead-cap hit of just $625,000 against a cap savings of $2.08 million, per Over the Cap, one might guess the 49ers possibly moving on from Celek prior to Week 1 would make a lot of financial sense, too.
As such, look for the Niners’ 2019 depth chart at tight end to be the following:
- George Kittle
- Levine Toilolo
- Kaden Smith
- Tyree Mayfield (practice squad)
All this ultimately comes down to how each player handles training camp and preseason duties, and the only essential guarantee is Kittle.
But we like predictions, right?