It was obvious the San Francisco 49ers were going to take a tight end at some point in the 2013 NFL Draft. Many people, myself included, thought they would target Stanford TE Zach Ertz, simply because of the Jim Harbaugh connection. That didn’t pan out in the first round, as the Niners traded up to get safety Eric Reid.
But with two picks in the second round, it was all but certain San Francisco would land their tight end to replace the departed Delanie Walker. After again bolstering the defense with DE Cornellius Carradine early in round two, the 49ers finally took TE Vance McDonald with the 55th overall selection.
One week ago, I’m sure many 49ers’ fans had no idea who the TE out of Rice even was. He wasn’t making the pre-draft headlines like Ertz, but it seems this was likely the team’s plan all along.
McDonald flew under the radar at Rice, but had a solid career, racking up 1504 yard receiving and 15 touchdowns over his four years. The odd thing is, he plays out of the slot frequently, while coming in at 6’4″ and 267 lbs. He’s known for being a great blocker on the outside, but there’s a lot of work to be done to mold him into a traditional tight end.
It’s too early to tell if Harbaugh will continue to use his size for mismatches on the outside, or if he will try to bring him inside into more of a classic No. 2 TE position. Perhaps he’ll try for a good mix of both? Regardless, McDonald is not your typical tight end.
As with most anyone the 49ers take in the draft nowadays, you have to think that there’s just something Harbaugh sees in them. McDonald could very well be another one of those hand-picked players, and his unique skill set, might be what’s intriguing the head coach.
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