49ers roster 2021: Josh Pederson needs George Kittle’s help

University of Louisiana at Monroe's Josh Pederson (86) Mandatory Credit: Imagn Images
University of Louisiana at Monroe's Josh Pederson (86) Mandatory Credit: Imagn Images /

The 49ers didn’t make a high-profile tight end add during the offseason, but they’re hoping rookie UDFA Josh Pederson can take advice from George Kittle.

Over the past few years, the San Francisco 49ers have seemingly sought after roster support for their All-Pro tight end, George Kittle.

A year ago, they went after now-Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper before settling on veteran Jordan Reed and drafting Georgia’s Charlie Woerner.

Quite a lot of movement, especially considering the Niners already fielded a decent No. 2 option in Ross Dwelley.

While there were no major splash moves at the position this offseason, San Francisco made a subtle move by grabbing former Louisiana-Monroe tight end Josh Pederson as an undrafted free agent.

Josh Pederson Receiving Table
2017Louisiana-MonroeSun BeltFRTE71213611.30
2018Louisiana-MonroeSun BeltSOTE61212110.12
2019Louisiana-MonroeSun BeltJRTE124356713.29
2020Louisiana-MonroeSun BeltSRTE103236711.50

Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
Generated 7/8/2021.

The son of former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, Josh Pederson made a name for himself at a small-school program the last two years, eventually finishing his four-year tenure at college with 1,191 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns.

At 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, the 49ers are likely looking to develop Pederson as a potential TE3, perhaps someone who could eventually replace Dwelley on the depth chart.

Until then, Pederson has his work cut out for him.

Why Josh Pederson improves with 49ers in 2021

There aren’t too many in-depth scouting reports out there about Pederson, but this one from Sports Illustrated is telling:

"He lines up in-line or in the slot. Pederson will fit best on a team that places an emphasis on past catching tight ends. He has solid speed and quickness for the position. Pederson cuts well, which allows him to get open."

Kittle has also taken notice of Pederson, which can’t be a bad thing, telling reporters the following:

"My guy [Josh Pederson], he’s a rookie. He’s learning it out. But the fact that we get to split up on two different fields allows us to get a lot more reps, which is nice to see. You know, watch his tape. He’s definitely a natural athlete."

If Kittle can show Pederson a thing or two, both in the receiving game and in blocking, Pederson could be one of those undrafted gems who pans out nicely in a year or two.

Why Josh Pederson won’t get his shot with 49ers in 2021

That same scouting report pointed out how Pederson isn’t much of a blocker, and his relative lack of size is probably going to hurt him anyway until he puts on some more functional weight.

Having run a 4.81 40-yard time at his pro day, the straight-line speed might not be there either despite Kittle’s comments about his athleticism.

The lack of speed and below-level strength could hurt him when it comes to generating yards after the catch, so don’t expect much from Pederson in that department right away.

Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster

It’s safe to assume Pederson is little more than a developmental project at this point — a player who might be worth stashing on the practice squad for a year or two in order to see whether or not he might have something to offer after he’s more acclimated to the NFL game.

Even if Pederson impresses a lot during training camp, he’s already facing an uphill battle to find a roster spot.

Behind Kittle and Dwelley, the Niners still have Woerner and another recent offseason addition, MyCole Pruitt. The latter two are far more effective blockers than Pederson, and a No. 3 tight end on the depth chart better be able to block.

As of now, Pederson doesn’t have that trait.

Assuming San Francisco keeps only three tight ends on the 53-man roster, Pederson will likely battle it out for placement on the practice squad during camp and the preseason. And it could be in the 49ers’ best interest to feature him modestly as to not tempt other teams from snatching him up after roster cuts are announced.

If they feel Pederson has something to offer down the road, that is.

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