When the San Francisco 49ers traded up in the second-round (No. 55) of the 2013 NFL draft to select TE Vance McDonald, I must admit I was a little surprised. A player that was drafted to be an additional blocker in OC Greg Roman’s offensive scheme, McDonald did a nice job in the limited opportunities he had. However, he did have his flaws his rookie season mostly stemming from his skill set as a receiver.
In 2013, McDonald finished with eight receptions for 119 receiving yards. And while he was targeted 19 times and racking up a 14.9 average, he had many drops that affected the outcome of games. In Week 10 against the Carolina Panthers, McDonald ran a superb post route slipping by All-Pro MLB Luke Kuechly only to drop a crucial catch that may have sealed a 49ers victory. And while his receiving skills still need some fine-tuning, McDonald is a talent that can’t be ignored.
Roman loves to use 12 and 22 personnel, making McDonald an intriguing option in red zone opportunities. A behemoth of a player as McDonald stands 6-4 and 267 pounds, he is a nightmare for opposing defensive backs as he can essentially box them out with his body. And while QB Colin Kaepernick has openly admitted to improving inside the red zone, McDonald may be an added threat that no one has been talking about.
Three of McDonald’s catches have come inside the opponents 30-yard line while boasting a 15.3 average. And while one of those catches resulted in McDonald being stopped at the one-yard line on a 2nd and 5 on the Tennessee Titans 21-yard line, you can see how much of a threat McDonald can be if given the opportunity.
So what can the Forever Faithful expect in 2014? Well considering the 49ers have a core stable of wide receivers at their disposal in WR Michael Crabtree, WR Anquan Boldin, WR Stevie Johnson, WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Quinton Patton, and WR Bruce Ellington, McDonald will have limited opportunities once again. But that’s not to say he won’t make the most of it in 2014.
A player that continues to improve his route-running and ability to read defenses’ pre-snap, look for McDonald to have a bigger role in 2014. From going across the middle to helping out as downfield blocker, look for McDonald to prove his worth in 2014, as I predict him to have around 15 catches for 225 receiving yards and three touchdowns while continuing to be one of the better blocking tight-ends in the game.