Editor’s note: Insider Matt Maiocco will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to 49ers training camp, which opens with their first full-squad practice on Saturday.
Who they have: Vernon Davis, Derek Carrier, Blake Bell, Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Asante Cleveland, Busta Anderson, Xavier Grimble
Who they lost: None
Looking back: It was a forgettable year for Davis, who spent his offseason working on his “brand” and not his game. He tried to leverage a new contract from the 49ers by remaining away from the team’s offseason workouts. Once the season started, Davis’ brand as a pass-catching threat took a major hit. He missed games early in the season with an ankle sprain and back spasms, and he never seemed to be fully engaged. As a result, he had his least-productive season since his 10-game rookie year. Davis caught just 26 passes for 245 yards. He had two touchdown receptions in the first quarter of the first game but did not get into the end zone the rest of the season. Carrier was the team’s second-leading tight end with nine catches for 105 yards. McDonald, a second-round pick in 2014, had two receptions for 30 yards in eight games before landing on injured reserve with a back injury.
Overall outlook: The 49ers are loaded with numbers at tight end. The club has eight tight ends among their 90 players in camp, and the 49ers believe there’s a chance three or four players who do not make the 49ers’ final roster will end up on other NFL teams this season. Davis, 31, has the most upside for this season with his ability as a blocker and pass-catcher. He also has a lot to prove in his contract year. He had a strong offseason program to provide encouragement that he has something left. The 49ers invested a fourth-round draft pick in Bell, a converted quarterback from Oklahoma. They also selected Anderson in the seventh round. The 49ers will undoubtedly try to trade one or more of the tights ends on their roster before the final cuts.
Camp competition: While there is certainly pressure on Davis to live up to his scheduled $4.95 million pay, the 49ers do not have another tight end on the roster who is the kind of complete player Davis proved to be up until last season. McDonald, a second-round pick in 2013, has 10 career receptions in 23 games. He faces stiff competition to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Carrier’s athleticism gives him a legitimate chance at winning the No. 2 job. There should be competition for every spot on the depth chart.
Bottom line: Although the 49ers got virtually no production from this position last year, the organization feels very good about the talent and depth they’ve assembled at this spot. Davis is the most well-rounded player in this group. The team is counting on him turning the clock back to 2013 and for the remaining players to benefit from the competition to elevate their games, too.