On Friday, I covered what running backs in the 2012 NFL draft might fit what the San Francisco 49ers are building on the offensive side of the ball. That was pretty much slim-pickings due to that fact that this team really isn't in need of a running back following the signing of Brandon Jacobs.
The next in this series of articles is going to focus on the tight end position.
While this doesn't seem to be too much of a need, we all know that Jim Harbaugh loves utilizing multiple tight end sets in his version of the West Coast Offense.
Delanie Walker is set to become a free agent following the 2012 season, which could lead some to believe that the 49ers are going to look this direction in the draft. As I mentioned before, teams that maintain consistent success are afforded the opportunity to look further than one season into the future. San Francisco appears to be in this position right now.
So, let us take a look at the best tight end prospects in the 2012 NFL draft and how they might fit into the 49ers' scheme.
Coby Fleener, Stanford
There has been a major trend in recent mock drafts that have the 49ers going with the former Stanford standout with the 30th pick in the draft. Obviously, some of this has to do with him being a local boy and the fact that he played under Harbaugh at Stanford.
More than that, he seems to fit exactly what the 49ers value at the tight end position. Fleener played in a pro-style offense in Palo Alto, which would indicate that his transition to the National Football League would be less than other tight end prospects.
Fleener has the capability to stretch the field between the hashes and runs precise routes for such a young player. What surprised me the most about this talented tight end is the fact that he plays extremely fast on the football field. After watching more tape on Fleener, those 40 times that were well documented don't seem to be a workout fad.
Imagine a two tight end set with Vernon Davis and Fleener lined up at each hash. That would cause a major matchup issue for opposing defenses on a consistent basis. They would have to worry about which one to double over the top, leaving the other in single coverage.
We already know that Davis cannot be contained going up against linebackers and safeties in man coverage. Fleener seems to possess that same ability.
Dwayne Allen, Clemson
Less of a fit than Fleener because he doesn't block all too well, Allen is more of a Jermichael Finley type of player. At 6'4" and 255 pounds, Allen is as physically intimidating as they come. He plays that solid build perfectly down the field, consistently shielding defenders from the ball.
Allen also runs tight routes and has the ability to make an immediate impact in the National Football League. This is something that the 49ers are definitely going to look at when drawing conclusions about tight end prospects.
Might be a poor man's Vernon Davis, which would limit the 49ers interest in him as they are going to look for a complementary tight end if they decide to go in this direction.
Ladarius Green, Louisiana Lafayette
One of my favorite offensive players in the draft. While Green didn't play against elite competition in college, he possesses the necessary skill set to be a major target between the hashes and on the outside.
Much like Davis and Walker, this prospect has the ability to line up outside as a wide receiver due to his frame and speed. Green has soft hands and plays extremely physical at the point of contact. Defenders will not be able to jam him at the line too often. You are not going to see safeties or linebackers be able to stay with him as well.
Green did run a limited route tree in college and wasn't asked to block too much. These could be two issues keep the 49ers from taking a long look at him in April.
Orson Charles, Georgia
A lot of scouts had Charles as the best tight end in the draft immediately after he declared. That has changed due to a combination of poor performances on the football field and a DUI arrest last month. Charles is now seen as more of a third-round prospect at this point.
With that said, he does have the skill set you look for in a receiving tight end. Much like the other prospects before, Charles won't struggle to get off the line against press coverage. Rather, he has the necessary strength to compete against the most physical corners in the NFL.
He does need to improve on the blocking aspect of the game and become more willing to do the small things that matter on the football field. With the right coaching, Charles could be a first-round talent moving forward.
I fully expect the 49ers to pick up another tight end in the draft. While it is slim picking outside of the top five, these players in this article represent both value and need for San Francisco. Walker is set to become a free agent following the 2012 season and will probably be looking to find a starting job somewhere.
There is no reason to believe that the 49ers won't look to get his possible replacement later this month. Any of the prospects listed in this article would fit what Jim Harbaugh and Co. are attempting to build on offense.
Pure conjecture, but Fleener and Charles seem to be the best fit.
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