San Francisco 49ers

49ers training camp preview: Incumbent tight ends in tough spot

Garrett Celek is one of three 49ers incumbent tight ends hoping to land a spot on what will likely be a revamped offensive roster under coach Kyle Shanahan.
Garrett Celek is one of three 49ers incumbent tight ends hoping to land a spot on what will likely be a revamped offensive roster under coach Kyle Shanahan. The Bee

SANTA CLARA As Kyle Shanahan said (in so many words) earlier this year: The spring is for learning the playbook, the summer is where the roster jockeying begins. With that in mind, here's how the depth chart looked when the spring sessions ended as well as some of the storylines to come when training camp gets underway. Players report on Thursday; the first practice is Friday.

Next up: tight end

TE1: Vance McDonald, Blake Bell, Cole Hikutini

TE2: Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek, George Kittle

Storylines:

* McDonald is the most athletically gifted tight end on the team but either through frequent drops or frequent injuries hasn't been reliable. The 49ers' brass was notably open about listening to trade offers for McDonald, which likely was more about lighting a fire beneath him than transparency. After all, the 49ers have nothing to lose: Either McDonald finally lives up to his considerable potential or the team sends a signal that there are no sacred cows on the roster, not even players who signed contract extensions in December.

* Kittle is listed last on this list (all rookies began on the third-team in the spring) but is the biggest lock to make the team. He is everything Shanahan wants in an offensive skill player in that he is equally good in the run and pass game. In fact, Kittle's pass-catching skills likely were muted last year due to his own injuries and Iowa's emphasis on running the ball. He was prominent during spring drills, especially in the minicamp that ended the spring sessions.

* It's easy to write off Celek, who was an undrafted rookie in 2012? And who never has been a prolific receiver. Still, Shanahan acknowledged that Celek has been on his radar for a few years, and like Kittle he is a well-rounded tight end. Celek also is a genuine tough guy, a quality that Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are trying to instill in the locker room

From earlier:

defensive line

linebacker

cornerback

safety

offensive line

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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