Tight ends 49ers could target in 2023 draft to back up Kittle


Three of the four tight ends who finished the season with the 49ers return to the team’s 90-man offseason roster.

The 49ers can be expected to enter the regular season with four tight ends. In other words, they are likely to keep three reserves behind four-time Pro Bowl player George Kittle.

San Francisco re-signed Ross Dwelley to a one-year contract Monday. Dwelley has appeared in 79 games, including the postseason, in his five seasons with the 49ers. He joins Kittle and Charlie Woerner as the only tight ends on the team’s current roster.

The draft would appear to set up well for the 49ers, as they look to add more depth at tight end. The 49ers have three draft picks at the end of the third round -- at Nos. 99, 101 and 102.

That could be a prime spot for the 49ers to select a tight end, such as Luke Schoonmaker of Michigan or Will Mallory of Miami.

Schoonmaker and Mallory stack up comparably to Kittle as athletes and prospects. The 49ers should be looking more along the lines of adding a player who brings more to the table that being just a blocking specialist.

Schoonmaker (6-foot-5, 241 pounds) caught 35 passes last season for 418 yards and three touchdowns.

Mallory (6-5, 240) had 42 catches for 538 yards and three touchdowns.

The tight end position looks deep in the 2023 NFL Draft. The 49ers should be able to secure a young player to develop with at least one of their scheduled 11 picks. San Francisco owns three selections apiece in the third and fifth rounds, which could be the prime areas for tight ends to be drafted.

Dwelley remains with the 49ers after losing playing time late in the season to veteran Tyler Kroft. Dwelley was inactive for five games in the regular season and two more in the playoffs.

Woerner, a sixth-round pick in 2020, was the primary backup to Kittle and played in all 20 games.

Kittle posted a career-best 11 touchdown receptions last season, including seven from Brock Purdy in the rookie's five regular-season starts.

The 49ers have a lot of room for improvement in the passing game from the other tight ends.

Woerner has been used almost exclusively as a blocker. In the past two seasons, he played 450 snaps but caught just five passes for 52 yards. Dwelley’s usage -- and production -- dropped off dramatically the past two seasons. He had seven receptions for 165 yards while playing 296 snaps the past two years.

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Kroft played 238 snaps in 2022 and caught four passes for 57. In the NFC Championship Game, Philadelphia edge rusher Haason Reddick beat him on the play-action play on which Purdy sustained a torn elbow ligament.

Kroft, an eight-year NFL player, remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent.

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