Cameron Latu trending toward fate of other 49ers 3rd-round draft picks

Cameron Latu is dangerously close to being yet another wasted Niners third-round NFL Draft pick.
San Francisco 49ers tight end Cameron Latu (81)
San Francisco 49ers tight end Cameron Latu (81) / Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers haven't had much luck drafting players in Round 3, and Cameron Latu is turning into yet another example.

The San Francisco 49ers have done a lot of things right and well under the leadership of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.

But they haven't done particularly well at drafting players in Round 3.

Yes, All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner is certainly an exception. But preceding him were the selections of cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and quarterback C.J. Beathard, neither of whom panned out to desired expectations. And, in more recent years, the Niners flopped with third-round running backs, Trey Sermon (2021) and Tyrion Davis-Price (2022), who lasted a mere one season before being cut.

Additionally, wide receiver Danny Gray (2022) has quickly fallen out of favor and seems to be next in this lengthy line of third-round draft busts by San Francisco.

Right behind him is second-year tight end Cameron Latu, selected at No. 101 overall in 2023 out of Alabama.

Cameron Latu started off career with 49ers on the wrong foot

In seeking a quality No. 2 tight end to pair with All-Pro George Kittle, the 49ers were hoping Latu could capitalize on the 787 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns he had during his final two years with the Crimson Tide and turn that into a respectable start of his pro career.

However, Latu struggled painfully during training camp, displaying difficulty catching the ball and running routes. Despite a brief flash in a preseason game his rookie year, a subsequent knee injury resulted in Latu being shelved on injured reserve for the rest of 2023.

The Niners opted not to elevate him from IR late in the season, leaving Latu's role and status heading into 2024 very much in doubt.

Will Cameron Latu make 49ers' 53-man roster in 2024?

The odds are already stacking up against Latu heading into training camp this year.

Already missing organized team activities and mandatory minicamp because of last year's injury, Latu now finds himself in direct competition with Kittle's backups, now including two veterans in Eric Saubert and Logan Thomas, along with two second-year pros in Brayden Willis and Jake Tonges, and an undrafted rookie in Mason Pline

That's seven names right there.

Assuming Shanahan keeps no more than four tight ends on the 53-man roster, Latu will have to beat out at least two of those aforementioned names, and it'll have to be by a pretty wide margin.

It's not all hopeless. Saubert is merely a depth option at this point of his career, while Pline and Tonges are long shots on the depth chart.

Still, Latu's hold on a roster spot is precarious, at best, and he'll need to undergo a complete 180 in comparison to his camp efforts from a year ago just to stand a chance.

Otherwise, he might be relegated to the recent run of one-and-done third-round draftees San Francisco has had in recent years.

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