Can 49ers depth chart additions at tight end help George Kittle in 2020?
It was clear pretty early in 2020 the San Francisco 49ers depth chart at tight end would look a bit different than it did the previous year.
For starters, veteran tight end Garrett Celek retired. The Niners also lost blocking tight end Levine Toilolo to free agency, meaning Ross Dwelley and Daniel Helm were the lone players at the position to support and back up the All-Pro, George Kittle.
Kittle’s prolific prowess is still more than enough to make up for any deficiencies or lack of depth behind him on the roster. After all, Pro Football Focus named Kittle the league’s best player in 2019.
Despite this, San Francisco made numerous efforts to bring aboard additional tight end help during the offseason, first during free agency and then again during the NFL Draft, culminating in the sixth-round selection of former Georgia tight end Charlier Woerner.
Woerner has an inside track to make the roster. But let’s look at how the offseason 49ers depth chart at the position looks right now.
49ers Depth Chart at Tight End Entering 2020
- Ross Dwelley
- Chase Harrell
- Daniel Helm
- George Kittle
- Charlie Woerner
Woerner wasn’t exactly a pass-catching specialist in college, as he never had more than 11 receptions in a single season with the Bulldogs. Then again, Kittle’s collegiate numbers at Iowa didn’t suggest a pass-catching threat, either. So make of that what you will.
But Warner was known for his pass-blocking abilities, which should help shore up the loss of Toilolo during the offseason.
This is significant for a number of reasons. Kittle’s best attribute is the ability to pick up yards after the catch, yes. Yet he’s also one of the league’s top blockers, too. That won’t change anytime soon.
When looking at Kittle’s 975 total offensive snaps from 2019, and considering 552 of them were as a blocker and not a receiver, one can see how freeing up Kittle for more offensive targets through the air could be vital this season.
Woerner can help support that area a lot, also giving head coach Kyle Shanahan the freedom to use more two-tight end run-support packages on offense.
Other 49ers Depth Chart Battles at Tight End to Watch
Dwelley, despite some flash moments in relief of Kittle last season, wasn’t much of a blocker and shouldn’t be seen as anything more than a supplementary piece. Yet he’s far more established at the pro level than Helm, who is now battling it out with the undrafted free-agent rookie, Chase Harrell.
Harrell could be an interesting player to watch, particularly if he finds his way onto the practice squad. But that’s likely the extent of his use his rookie year.
The key battle overall, however, will be how the pecking order on the 49ers depth chart pans out behind Kittle. Right now, Dwelley is the clear No. 2 pass-catching option and could easily hold that title unless Woerner flashes some prolific playmaking skills in training camp.
Again, it’s possible, particularly when remembering Kittle’s college numbers weren’t exactly prolific, either.
That makes Woerner a bit of an X-factor this season and beyond, perhaps lending to hopes San Francisco can turn him into a viable receiving threat behind Kittle and someone with more than enough blocking prowess, too.
Few opposing defenses are properly equipped to handle that kind of offensive attack, which would result in a dream scenario for Shanahan if it comes to fruition.