It’s safe to say that hopes were high for TE Vance McDonald when the San Francisco 49ers selected him in the second round (No. 55) of the 2013 draft.
The team, which was known for running two tight-end sets, had just lost TE Delanie Walker to free agency, and needed someone to pair with TE Vernon Davis. In addition to the here and now, the 49ers also had long term plans for McDonald, and envisioned him ultimately being a replacement for Davis down the line.
Unfortunately, things haven’t worked out the way anyone would have hoped in the early going, and McDonald now finds himself in danger of being with a different organization come opening weekend. According to Ryan Sakamoto, rookie TE Blake Bell and TE Derek Carrier appear to be in the lead for the backup tight-end position, while McDonald is on the outside looking in.
While this is disappointing news for McDonald, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 23 career regular-season games, McDonald has been targeted 26 times and only has 10 receptions (38 percent). He’s never caught more than a single pass in any one game and never scored a touchdown.
Those numbers look even worse when you compare them to Carrier, who shown he can make an impact, even in limited playing time. Carrier was targeted 14 times over 11 games in 2014, and caught nine of those passes (64 percent) for 105 yards.
McDonald also has a growing cap number, which will be $980,00 this year, and rise to over $1 million in 2016. That’s a price the Niners are unlikely to pay for someone who is making a minimal impact.
That’s not to say McDonald has no chance at redemption. Injuries happen and there’s always a chance of him picking up his game jumping back up the depth chart. It will be an uphill climb though with Carrier and Bell looking like solid contributors ahead of him, and rookies like TE Busta Anderson possibly offering more upside.