49ers must look at Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble in NFL Draft
By Peter Panacy
The 49ers have long since been looking for a No. 2 tight end to pair with George Kittle, and Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble could be it.
Another year, and another chance for the San Francisco 49ers to explore backups to support their All-Pro tight end, George Kittle.
Last year, the Niners went with one rookie and one veteran — Charlie Woerner and Jordan Reed, respectively — yet didn’t come down with overly likable results. Woerner, an exceptional blocker back at Georgia, remains a work in progress and still might not have a role carved out for him at the NFL level.
Reed, meanwhile, is a free agent.
Even though San Francisco re-signed backup tight end Ross Dwelley, the fact head coach Kyle Shanahan lured both Woerner and Reed into the fray a year ago suggests the 49ers’ plans for the 2021 NFL Draft regarding tight ends probably won’t change much. And while it would have been awesome to see Florida tight end Kyle Pitts donning the red and gold, the Niners move up to No. 3 overall in the draft order all but eliminates that from happening.
This year’s draft isn’t overly deep with tight end prospects. But one name who should be on San Francisco’s radar is Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble.
Likely a day-two pick in the draft, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility the 49ers target Tremble for his upside while banking on some hidden-gem talent.
Why Tommy Tremble makes sense for 49ers
Just like Kittle when he came out of Iowa in 2017, one has to look far beyond the sheer stats.
Tremble’s numbers don’t scream production, and that’s where scouts and draft analysts can get caught up in overlooking players who wind up going from relative obscurity at the college level to Kittle-like performances in the pros:
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
Kittle wasn’t a flashy pass-catcher in college either. Rather what made Kittle exemplary enough was his notable blocking efforts, which Tremble already displayed.
The Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield explained:
"If you are looking for a tight end who is going to strap it up and obliterate the player across from him as a blocker, look no further. Tremble is probably the best blocker in this class, and that might be why Brian Kelly used him primarily as a blocker and not as much in the passing game. When the Fighting Irish looked to target tight ends in the air, Tremble was still an after-thought, as his production numbers indicate. But as a blocker? Tremble is something special. He will flatten defenders in a variety of blocking roles, whether executing slice blocks across the formation on split-zone plays, working frontside on outside zone runs, or even handling edge defenders or defensive tackles on inside zone plays."
Right away, Tremble is just as good a blocker as Woerner. And that’s going to be important, as a No. 2 tight end will need to have blocking prowess to carve out a regular role on offense.
But even with a relatively limited amount of pass-catching snaps, Tremble still outclasses anything Woerner did in this regard.
Tremble ran a 4.60 40-yard time at his pro day, which is notable for a bigger-bodied pass-catcher. At 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds, he has the idea size and strength to win his one-on-one matchups, and that’ll be important as he refines his route-running technique.
Speaking of that technique, Tremble is still somewhat raw in that regard, and he’ll have to work on his hand technique to both fight for balls and avoid the occasional drops that plagued him when he was given the chance to haul in passes. However, as Schofield also noted, even when Tremble was getting open, Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book rarely looked in his direction.
Whether or not that was because Book didn’t trust Tremble is anyone’s guess. But one could figure a head coach like the 49ers’ own, Kyle Shanahan, would want to exploit Tremble’s upside.
Even if it meant taking some time to develop Tremble’s route tree.
Going back to Kittle, it’s important to note Iowa’s offense was awfully run-heavy, which opened up Kittle’s prowess of being a blocker to being discovered by the Niners. His pass-catching prowess, particularly his ability to run after the catch, helped separate him at the NFL level.
This isn’t to say Tremble is on a similar trajectory. But his use at Notre Dame certainly prevented him from climbing up the NFL Draft’s radar for tight ends.
Still, if San Francisco is willing to gamble on Tremble’s upsides, it could have a prolific No. 2 weapon at the position and a perfect complement to Kittle’s already other-worldly abilities.