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NFL draft: 49ers may have to pick yet another tight end

The 49ers enter the 2024 NFL draft in a familiar uncomfortable spot. They still don’t have a particularly strong backup tight end option behind George Kittle, and they might need to dip into the position again in this year’s draft.

Both Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner have been quality reserve TEs during their respective tenures, but neither has ever emerged as a viable pass-catching option that allows the 49ers to turn two-TE sets into the kind of weapon it conceivably could be for them.

Their lack of depth at the position was highlighted in last year’s draft when the 49ers spent a third-round pick on Alabama TE Cameron Latu, and a seventh-round pick on Oklahoma TE Brayden Willis.

Unfortunately for San Francisco there are still massive question marks hanging over both players heading into the 2024 draft. Latu missed the entire season with a knee injury after a rough preseason, and Willis was only active for seven games and contributed mostly on special teams. Neither has done enough to give the 49ers a ton of confidence that they can slot in as regular contributors alongside Kittle.

Those question marks could make the 49ers use another pick at that spot, so it’s not a huge surprise that they’re making the rounds with the TEs at the NFL combine.

Reports from Indianapolis indicate San Francisco has had meetings with at least three players at the position, and we could see more in the months leading up to the draft.

Jared Wiley, TCU

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Wiley is an enormous TE who TCU lists at 6-7, 255 pounds. He hauled in 71 balls for 765 yards and 12 touchdowns in two seasons with the Horned Frogs. Prior to transferring there he spent three relatively unproductive seasons at the University of Texas. Wiley lined up all over the field for TCU and has good enough movement skills to play either in line or as a move TE. He’s not a particularly fluid route runner, but he has good hands and a good understanding of how to find space. One issue that consistently jumps out is that he’s not great after the catch, but at his size just operating as a viable red zone or third down threat would make him an asset.

Report via MJ Hurley.

Jaheim Bell, FSU

Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t to say Bell is going to be Deebo Samuel, but there are a ton of plays on tape where he moves an awful lot like the 49ers’ All-Pro WR. He’s an excellent athlete who lined up in a bunch of different spots for a very good Florida State team. The big question is whether he’ll be able to consistently line up in line and block in the NFL. That’s key for every TE, but it’s particularly big for the 49ers and their run-first offense. One thing that jumps out though is during Bell’s junior year at South Carolina where he played for three seasons before transferring to FSU – he notched 73 rushing attempts for 261 yards and three touchdowns. He is a do-everything offensive weapon who would immediately add an additional positionless element to San Francisco’s TE room.

Report via Brad Graham.

Theo Johnson, Penn State

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson is another TE with great size (6-6, 250 pounds). He never put together a huge year, but he was consistently productive across his final three college seasons. In 2021 he had 213 yards and a touchdown on 19 catches. In 2022 those numbers ticked up to 328 yards and four touchdowns on 20 catches. Last season was his best on the stat sheet with 34 catches, 341 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s struggled as a blocker in college, but that’s something that can be coached up if the 49ers believe he’s going to stay productive as a receiver in the NFL.

Report via Chase Senior.

Story originally appeared on Niners Wire