SANTA CLARA – Although the move received little attention up to this point, the 49ers added a tight end during the offseason -- a player who missed just three games in his five NFL seasons and has 47 career starts.
The reason the move has received little attention is because Bruce Miller made those starts at fullback before transitioning into a new role in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Miller’s versatility has enabled the 49ers to place him at tight end during the offseason program. It’s a move Kelly foreshadowed in February when asked about Miller, who plays a position that did not exist on the Philadelphia Eagles' depth chart during Kelly's tenure.
“You look at Bruce as a football player,” Kelly said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “A lot of times he was on the wing and was like a move tight end. I think they’ve used him here in the past. I don’t think Bruce himself can be stereotyped as ‘He’s just this.’ You’re talking about a guy who was a defensive end in college.”
The 49ers list five tight ends on their roster: Garrett Celek, Vance McDonald, Blake Bell, Busta Anderson and Je’Ron Hamm. But Miller will be asked to line up in different spots as he competes for a roster spot.
“He’s doing fullback stuff, tight end stuff,” Celek said of Miller. “Kind of how Chip’s offense works, there’s not so much a (fullback), so he’s working more with us. He mixes in well. He’s playing very well.”
Miller has mostly been used as a lead-blocker and special-teams player in his five NFL seasons after the 49ers drafted him in 2011 and moved him fullback. Last year, Miller appeared in all 16 games and carried six times for 14 yards and a touchdown while catching 10 passes for 135 yards.