Behind George Kittle, the San Francisco 49ers’ tight end crop appears to be pretty fluid, leaving the door open for undrafted rookie Tyree Mayfield to make the 53-man roster in 2019.
Behind Kittle, things get a bit more interesting.
Veteran tight end Garrett Celek is on the mend from back surgery and remains in the concussion protocol, while rookie Kaden Smith out of Stanford is, well… a rookie. Another veteran, Levine Toilolo, is known more for his blocking than impacting the stat sheet.
These question marks open up the door for Wyoming’s Tyree Mayfield — the undrafted free agent, whom the Niners picked up following the conclusion of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-3, 241-pound Mayfield didn’t make much of an impact on the stat sheet during his collegiate tenure, although there was an uptick after his previous quarterback, Josh Allen, went to the Buffalo Bills back in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Not saying that made a difference, although the 341 receiving yards and two touchdowns certainly didn’t hurt Mayfield’s chances of finding a job at the pro level for the long run.
How will he maintain those chances, though?
Why Tyree Mayfield Improves in 2019
It’s not uncommon to see small-school prospects fly under the radar, and good NFL scouts won’t look at the traditional stats as sole means to determine success within the pro ranks.
If they had, Kittle wouldn’t be the household name he is now.
Mayfield managed a 4.67 40-yard time during his pro day, which isn’t terrible for his position at all. On top of that, he also flashed some eye-popping grabs during the 49ers’ rookie minicamp earlier this spring.
As a bonus, Mayfield was a special teams standout at Wyoming, too. If he can capitalize there, his stock level should rise significantly.
Why Tyree Mayfield Regresses
Given his size, Mayfield is kind of a tweener between a traditional tight end and big-bodied wide receiver. He lacks the punch and strength of a tight end, while not displaying the speed or elusiveness of a wideout.
Those attributes will hurt his chances a lot, and there are going to be question marks about his level of collegiate competition until proven otherwise.
While there is some fluidity at tight end for the 49ers this training camp, particularly on the back end, it’s likely he’ll be looked at as a third stringer, at best, not getting any of the featured reps.
Chances of Making the 49ers’ 53-Man Roster in 2019
Right now, Mayfield’s primary competition would appear to be with second-year pro Ross Dwelley, who was scantly used by San Francisco last season, yet still managed to hold onto the No. 3 spot on the depth chart for much of the year.
Even if Celek finds himself off the roster by Week 1, one would guess the Niners fill the void behind Kittle with both Smith and Toilolo. The team has more invested in those two players anyway, meaning Mayfield’s best shot to hang around likely comes on the practice squad.
That’s not necessarily a bad place to be, however.
Mayfield did make an impression during rookie minicamp, which is good. And the fact he already has special teams value means the 49ers could easily consider him as a developmental prospect worthy of retaining, if possible.
Perhaps it will be worthwhile checking back in on Mayfield’s status a year from now, if the team is able to stash him until then.