As expected, the San Francisco 49ers targeted a top-5 tight end on Day 2, but not Stanford’s Zach Ertz, who was popularly tied to the team through head coach Jim Harbaugh.
After trading for a third-straight pick in the 2013 draft, the 49ers selected Vance McDonald of Rice.
As a small-school tight end, McDonald enjoyed a productive collegiate career with the Owls. He received a great deal of recognition during the draft process, unanimously earning a second-round grade from analysts.
Let’s explore the fit with the San Francisco 49ers.
How Does McDonald Fit?
For one of the more dense rosters in the NFL, the 49ers actually had a few needs this year, desperately seeking a complementary tight end. Veteran TE Delanie Walker left the team via free agency, signing a more lucrative deal with the Titans.
As most know, the 49ers run a very tight end-friendly system, which necessitates the No. 2 being starting-caliber. McDonald could have gone to another team this year that asked him to be the starter, but that’s not what the 49ers are going to do.
With McDonald, the 49ers want to get more dynamism from the position.
At 6’4”, 267 pounds, McDonald’s purpose is to provide a receiving threat, upgrading this team’s vertical attack. With his freakish size and athleticism, the Niners add him to the roster hoping to boost their points per game average.
The Big Picture
This is an offense that is building around new-found signal-caller Colin Kaepernick.
This will give him a high-ceiling weapon of the future; one he can develop and grow with. McDonald is going to step in immediately and make this team even more dangerous in the middle of the field, pairing him with another hybrid, Vernon Davis.
With this pick, the 49ers add another dimension to a high-volume offense.
McDonald and Davis have the versatility to be the X and Z receivers with Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin in the slot. Having pure athletes that are multidimensional is going to enable this innovative coaching staff to attack defenses in a unique, and ultimately effective way.
However, before we get ahead of ourselves, McDonald will have to earn his stripes as a blocker.
Delanie Walker fulfilled a role as the sidecar blocker in the 49ers’ pistol scheme, which McDonald will have to learn. The Niners cannot plug him in there if he is going to be a liability in pass protection.
However, he is a big, broad specimen with the frame to add more size and become a potent blocker. That, coupled with his long arms (34.5”), is what drew the Niners to him as a complete tight end.
He has the ability to become one of the NFL’s most complete tight ends. This was an excellent selection by Trent Baalke and the 49ers front office.
Stat Projections: 38 receptions, 450 yards and 4 touchdowns
Dylan DeSimone is the San Francisco 49ers' lead columnist for Bleacher Report. A former NFL journalist and fantasy football writer for SB Nation, Niners Nation and SB Nation Bay Area, Dylan now writes for B/R.
To talk football with Dylan, follow him on Twitter @DeSimone80