Sleeper Spotlight: Could The 49ers Vance McDonald Be 2016s Breakout Tight End?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Tight end has become a very deep position, so there’s little reason to reach for someone on draft day. There is also enough talent available that rolling the dice on a complete flier doesn’t make much sense, so why even discuss the 49ers’ Vance McDonald? At the very least he’s a player we should be monitoring off the waiver wire, as the potential is there for him to emerge as a Top 15 option.

When given a chance in the second half of the season he totaled 23 receptions for 281 yards and 3 TD. Those numbers aren’t going to blow you away, but simply replicating them over a course of 16 games means roughly 45 catches, 550 yards and 6 TD (to use round numbers).

Now what happens if he can take a step forward?

We all know the team’s receiving corps is lacking, especially with Anquan Boldin out of the picture, and with Chip Kelly now the head coach the offense should be extremely up tempo. That means more opportunities for everyone, and McDonald could easily operate as a a safety valve for whoever is under center.

In fact, prior to being selected in the second round in 2013 NFL.com described him by saying:

“Despite being built like an inline tight end, the majority of McDonald’s experience is in the slot. This certainly helps his comfort blocking on the edge and as a receiver who picks up yards after the catch. In fact, McDonald is still learning how to use his frame effectively. Teams could view the Rice product as an inline prospect or as a Joker mismatch, but either way McDonald should be selected on the second day.”

Slot receiver… We already covered how Kelly loves to utilize the slot, when we discussed Bruce Ellinton as a potential sleeper candidate (click here to view). With McDonald a potential candidate there as well, his upside appeal only grows.

McDonald may not be Zach Ertz, but the Eagles’ pass catching tight end did rack up 75 receptions for 853 yards last season in Kelly’s offense. He also could be the primary red zone target, given his size (6’4″, 267 lbs.). It all comes together for an extremely intriguing deep league sleeper.

Do you have to draft him? In most cases probably not, but keep a close eye on him off the waiver wire (or utilize a late round pick). He could quickly prove to be this year’s breakout performer at the position.

Sources – ESPN, NFL.com

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