49ers 53-man roster projection: Tight End

With the start of training camp about two weeks away, now is the perfect time to look at each of the position groups on the San Francisco 49ers roster and predict who will make the 53-man roster.

We have covered the quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers; today’s focus will be the tight ends.

On the roster: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Troy Fumagalli, Tanner Hudson, Tyler Kroft, Jordan Matthews

Analysis: George Kittle continues to be among the best tight ends in the game. Despite missing three games in 2021, the veteran finished the season with 71 receptions for 910 yards, including a career-high six touchdown grabs. 

Kittle’s production could see an upswing this season with Trey Lance taking over at quarterback. Lance targeted his tight ends often while at North Dakota State off play action, a key piece to setting up shot plays in the 49ers offense. 

Aside from Kittle, San Francisco tight ends saw little action as Ross Dwelley, and Charlie Woerner combined for only 11 targets last season.

Looking to upgrade the position, San Francisco added veterans Tyler Kroft and Troy Fumagalli to compete with Dwelley and Woerner for roster spots, along with Tanner Hudson and Jordan Matthews. They spent most of last season on the practice squad.

Kroft has proven productivity with 1,024 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on 101 receptions in 81 games over seven seasons. If he proves himself as a solid run blocker, Kroft will be in a position to make the final roster.

Question marks: Two questions surrounding the tight end position are the health of George Kittle and how many the 49ers will decide to carry on the 53-man roster. 

Since his breakout season in 2018, Kittle has struggled to stay healthy. The veteran has missed 13 games over the last three seasons. San Francisco needs Kittle on the field this season if they are to improve upon their NFC Championship game appearance. 

Needing depth along other areas of the roster, San Francisco may choose to carry only three tight ends on the initial 53-man roster. The versatility of players such as Kyle Jusczcyk and Jauan Jennings plays into this possibility. 

On any given play, Kyle Jusczcyk can be lined up in the backfield, out wide, as a wing, or as a tight end. Meanwhile, Jennings has the size to run all the routes the 49ers ask from their move tight end. 

53-man Roster Projection: (3) George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Tyler Kroft. Tanner Hudson, and Jordan Matthews will end up on the practice squad.

This article has 16 Comments

  1. So far I agree on your roster projections, but I I wanted to run this by you, Jack;

    I was told by someone who is somewhat connected, not to the Niners, but the NFL in general, that there is a strong theory going around as to the real reason the 49ers gave Sudfeld $2M in guarantees (and allegedly a chance to make up to $3M with certain incentives, but I haven’t been able to verify that). The theory being that the Niners wanted the flexibility to bounce Sudfeld between the active roster, and practice squad, in the event that they were able to find a viable 3rd QB (Purdy?) whom they would like to protect. Their feelings were that Sudfeld would likely be well protected in passing waivers, if he had $2M in guaranteed salary.

    Supposedly, there were 2 other teams interested in Sudfeld with, in the words of one source, “all believing he has starter potential in the league”, but sounds like something the 49ers would push in order to justify the deal, rather than admitting that the 49ers like having the veteran to support Trey in terms of helping install the offense and such throughout the preseason, but not so much as a viable backup. For the longest time I was trying to understand why the 49ers gave a QB who’s skillset is nothing like Trey’s, and hasn’t ever started a single regular season game, that much in guarantees. I thought I distinctly remembered Kyle saying the reason they didn’t want Kaepernick, was because Kyle wanted a continuity in skillsets between his QB’s. The $2M for Sudfeld, seemed excessive at the time, and I was far from the only one who felt that way. In fact, it sent small shockwaves around the sports world.

    It does make a lot more sense now, if it’s true that they wanted the flexibility to bounce Sudfeld between their PS and roster, while making it extremely unlikely that they might lose him to a waiver claim. Especially so, after they actually drafted a semi-mobile QB with a more intriguing skill-set, IMO. It will be very interesting to see if they risk losing Purdy, or “risk” losing Sudfeld off waivers.

    Thanks Jack, I can’t wait to see it play out.

      1. Thanks Jack. It will be fascinating to watch, and I look forward to your training camp reports. Keep up the good work!

        1. “The last time that Sudfeld played – no, the ONLY time that Sudfeld played – his coach was basically accused of throwing a game. Sudfeld was a surprise entrant into the Eagles’ season finale two years ago when he replaced Jalen Hurts, threw an interception, and helped Philly lose a game that kept the New York Giants out of the playoffs. The Philadelphia Daily News famously called the move a ‘Nate Crime’!”

          Stephen Douglas, Mar 11

          Oh my, lol.

    1. The “continuity of skill sets” was the least offensive reason to give to Kaepernick but it meant nothing. He was not a good quarterback.

      1. Keapernick was certainly limited as a pocket passer, but he took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Hasn’t that been one of the main talking points for all of the Jimmy G. stans?

        That’s a joke, of course. Then again, my wife tells me that every joke contains a seed of truth.

  2. Purdy did a solid job in OTA’s and displayed intelligence and maturity. He will get a good look in camp.

  3. Damn, Pats traded Nkeal Harry to the Bears for a 7th rounder. We contemplated drafting that guy but thankfully drafted Deebo instead.

  4. QUESTION: I am reading multiple reports that Jimmy has been “throwing for weeks”.

    Jack, have you heard anything solid to corroborate this?

    Also, why would the 49ers, and Jimmy Garoppolo’s camp keep this under wraps? Wouldn’t it be in both of their best interests to let everyone know that Jimmy has been healthy enough to begin throwing just as soon as he was able? In fact, wouldn’t it make sense for both sides to also promote this fact with perhaps some video evidence? Public perception matters. If you were a GM, and you wanted to sell the fact that Jimmy was worth trading for to your fanbase, wouldn’t the fact that Jimmy has been healthy enough to start throwing “weeks ago” help bolster selling a trade to your fanbase?

    Something about this entire saga just doesn’t smell right!

    1. Garoppolo has never been one to broadcast his offseason workouts, but you’d think in this case he would want to get it out there. Weird indeed.

      1. Not weird – Jimmy is a good guy – he is working with the team to find a resolution beneficiary to all involved.

        Once Garoppolo is cleared, his $7.5 million injury guarantee for 2022 evaporates. He will be guaranteed nothing unless he’s on the Week One roster = Why be disruptive?

  5. I’ve always thought Jordan Matthews would be a great tight end but it hasn’t materialized. Shanahan could do so much out of 22 personnel if he had a better receiving compliment to Kittle. I really think it’s an underutilized part of Shanahan’s offense. I’m hopeful Kroft can be that addition but he may have too many injury issues to be effective.

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