TE Prospects and the 49ers

Byham doesn't need the ball to be effective

When your team's got Vernon Davis on the roster, it's obvious that tight end isn't going to be a big priority in the upcoming draft. However, the 49ers aren't totally set there and with so many gifted prospects available at the position, they could swoop in and grab an under-the-radar guy in the later rounds.

Top Tight End Prospects

Jermaine Gresham • 6-6 • 250 • Oklahoma

Gresham is an exceptional pass catching threat who has prototypical size and the potential to be one of the elite tight ends at the next level. He gets a quick release off the line, works well in space and flashes soft, reliable hands. He has to use his hands more effectively as a blocker and to defeat the jam off the line of scrimmage. Projection: First Round

Rob Gronkowski (JR) • 6-6 • 250 • Arizona

Gronkowski is the total package. He has size, athleticism, hands, and toughness. He is a great route runner with baby-soft hands, but he can't stay healthy. He was a superstar when on the field, but he wasn't on the field that much. Projection: Second Round

Aaron Hernandez (JR) • 6-2 • 250 • Florida

Hernandez (below) is an athletic, durable pass-catching tight end with natural receiving skills. He is a playmaker after the catch and can beat most linebackers in one-on-one coverage. He doesn't have a prototypical frame for a tight end and has to work on his overall strength and blocking technique. Projection: Second Round

Jimmy Graham • 6-6 • 260 • Miami (FL) Graham is an intriguing playmaker who possesses great size, speed and pass catching ability. He's physical off the line and maintains his aggressiveness throughout his routes. He's also a willing blocker who's still learning technique. A former basketball player at Miami, Graham played just one year for the Hurricanes on the football field. Projection: Third Round

Edward Dickson • 6-4 • 244 • Oregon

Dickson is a natural receiver and makes the play when the ball comes his way. He cuts well and can find an opening without a problem. However, he is not really fast enough to be a dangerous receiver against the more athletic linebackers Projection: Fourth Round

Anthony McCoy • 6-4.5 • 249 • USC

McCoy is a big, solid target who's reliable on key downs. He is one of the better downfield blockers among the top tight ends and has nice hands. He can get open, but he won't blow past anyone. Projection: Fourth Round

Dennis Pitta • 6-5 • 248 • BYU

Pitta is a pure receiver who was used short, deep, and everywhere in between. He has great hands and swallows up everything his way. Projection: Fifth Round

Dorin Dickerson • 6-1 • 222 • Pittsburgh

Dickerson is versatile and can be used like a tight end and an H-Back, but he has wide receiver skills. He is great at fighting off defenders to make plays, but his height is a concern. Projection: Fifth Round

Tony Moeaki • 6-4 • 255 • Iowa

Moeaki is potentially the best receiving tight end in the draft and can be used like a big wide receiver. He is not as fast as he needs to be, nor is he a top blocker. Projection: Fifth Round

Garrett Graham • 6-3 • 234 • Wisconsin

Graham is a natural target who always finds a way to get into the holes in the secondary. He has excellent hands and is willing to take a big shot. He will be seen by some as a fullback even though he's not an elite blocker. Projection: Fifth Round

TIGHT END

49ers Need at Position: 4

Current Players: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Tony Curtis, Joe Jon Finley

Positional Overview: When Jimmy Raye took over as offensive coordinator, he promised Davis that the 49ers would be running a "tight end-friendly" offense and he kept his word. Davis rewarded his faith with a long-awaited breakout season, finishing with 78 receptions for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns. Walker however, despite getting a ton of playing time and being a mismatch for opponents as a second tight end, didn't have as much success and was sloppy on a lot of his routes. The team went without a third tight end as last year's 6th-round pick, Bear Pascoe, didn't make it out of camp and consequently the Niners had to rely too much on Walker to block.

When to Address: Seventh Round.

Who's There: Gresham is a superb athlete who can do it all, similar to an Oklahoma tight end from a generation before in Keith Jackson. Aside from him, the other top prospects are all guys who can catch and run, but are a bit light in the loafers as blockers, and the 49ers have little need for guys like that. The one exception is Pittsburgh's Nate Byham, the best blocking tight end of this draft class, who was overshadowed by teammate Dorin Dickerson for most of his collegiate career.

SFI's Pick: Nate Byham, Tight End, Pittsburgh, 6'5" 250 lbs. Byham's not going to thrill anyone as a receiver and it would be a mistake to use him on any but the simplest of routes, which is fine. It wasn't Pascoe's awful hands that got him cut as much as it was his terrible blocking.

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