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2021 49ers Roster Preview: Tight End

Don’t rule out the possibility of the 49ers adding another tight end to this competition.

With the start of training camp now about two weeks away, this is the perfect time to take a look at every player on the San Francisco 49ers roster, and how they fit with the team heading into training camp. So far, we’ve covered the quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Today we move on to the tight ends.

George Kittle

Kittle is undoubtedly among the top two or three tight ends in the NFL. Despite missing eight games due to injury in 2020, he still managed to finish with the third most receptions on the 49ers.

In addition to being among the top threats for the 49ers in the passing game, Kittle provides a tremendous boost in the running game as well. The San Francisco running game averaged 4.9 yards per carry in the eight games that Kittle was available, more than a yard per carry more than it could manage while he was out of the lineup.

Kittle signed a new 5-year, $75,000,000 contract in 2020, but while it starts in 2021, the 49ers won’t feel the effects of this until 2022 when his cap hit will jump to more than $16 million.

The only question mark with Kittle is his health. He has a very aggressive and physical style of play which has led to 10 missed games the past two seasons. It should go without saying, but for the 49ers to make a serious run at the playoffs in 2021, they will need to have Kittle available far more than they did in 2020.

Ross Dwelley

Dwelley has been an underused member of the 49ers offense the past two seasons. While he’s definitely not Kittle, Dwelley has proven himself to be a reliable option in the passing game, catching 75 percent of the passes thrown his way.

Often used as the motion tight end, there was also noticeable improvement in Dwelley as a run blocker during the second half of the 2020 season. This is an area of his game that will need to continue to show improvement in 2021.

Charlie Woerner

The 2020 sixth round selection out of Georgia started last season as the run blocking tight end and struggled early. As the season wore on, Woerner was moved into more of an H-Back/move tight end role.

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During his time at Georgia, Woerner showed the type of versatility that Kyle Shanahan prefers in his offensive system and he could see an expanded role in 2021.

MyCole Pruitt

Pruitt was originally selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, but bounced around the league. After being plucked off the Vikings practice squad by Chicago, Pruitt would also spend a season in Houston before landing with Tennessee in 2018.

Known mostly for his run blocking ability, Pruitt more than doubled his career reception total during his time with the Titans. During those three seasons he was able to come down with 20 receptions and average 12.1 yards per catch.

Josh Pederson

The 49ers signed the son of former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson as an undrafted free agent following the draft from the University of Louisiana Monroe.

After redshirting in 2016, Pederson worked his way into the offense in 2017. He departed ULM with 99 catches for 1,191 yards and 11 touchdowns. Pederson’s best season with ULM came in 2019 when he finished with 43 receptions for 567 yards and nine touchdowns.

2021 Outlook

After missing 10 games over the last two seasons, Kittle needs to stay healthy. His presence may be even more impactful in the running game than as a receiver, and the 49ers offense seems to be gearing up to be a little more run heavy in 2021.

Dwelley’s position on the final roster appears to be secure with a $920,000 guarantee in his contract for this season. Dwelley gives the 49ers a solid second receiving threat from the tight end position.

Pruitt has a $500,000 guarantee which would seem to ensure his spot on the roster, but he could be competing for a roster spot with Woerner if the 49ers decide to go with only three tight ends on the active roster. Pruitt’s role would appear to be similar to how Garrett Celek was utilized, the blocking tight end that can do some damage in the passing game when called upon.

Don’t rule out the possibility of the 49ers adding another tight end to this competition. Last offseason the 49ers made a run at Austin Hooper during free agency before settling on Jordan Reed in early August.