Meet a 49ers rookie: Can Charlie Woerner carve out a role at tight end?

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Charlier Woerner has something in common with his new 49ers teammate, George Kittle.

Both athletic tight ends were more known for their blocking than receiving skills before becoming late-round draft picks.

“I’m super pumped to be in the tight end room with him,” Woerner said of Kittle after being drafted. “As a guy who blocks a lot at Georgia, I just loved watching him play. Just the way he played at the 49ers this year and how aggressive he is in the blocking game. I love to emulate him and try to be like him in my game.”

There was little evidence from his college career that Kittle would quickly develop into a record-breaking tight end before joining the 49ers as a fifth-round choice in 2017.

His most prolific season at Iowa included 22 catches, 314 yards and four touchdowns. But he became the single-season leader in yards by a tight end during his second season in the NFL when he recorded 1,377 yards in 2018. Kittle was named a first-team All-Pro during San Francisco’s recent Super Bowl run.

The 49ers liked Kittle in the draft because of his movement skills and his tenacious blocking, which have both carried over into his professional career. He ran an impressive 4.52 at the combine and had a 132-inch broad jump.

Woerner had just 34 catches for 376 yards and one touchdown in four seasons for the Bulldogs. But he has intriguing athleticism and versatility. At 6-5 and 244 pounds, Woerner’s 120-inch broad jump ranked in the 80th percentile among tight ends while his 40-yard dash (4.78) and 34 ½-inch vertical jump were middle of the road.

San Francisco is expecting Woerner to compete for the third spot on the tight end depth chart after the team lost a pair of blocking tight ends, Garrett Celek (retirement) and Levine Toilolo (New York Giants), this offseason. Ross Dwelley, who grew up in El Dorado Hills, is the favorite to return as the No. 2 option while Daniel Helm is back after spending most of last season on the practice squad. The 49ers added rookie free agent Chase Harrell from Arkansas following the draft.

Shanahan made it clear Woerner will have to be able to catch passes if he’s going to make the team and contribute.

“To bring in a new tight end was important to us,” Shanahan said. “We see (Woerner) competing with Helm right there, trying to take on that Celek role, that Levine role, Logan Paulsen, which is a very important role for us. It majors around blocking … but if that’s all you do is block, then we’ll just get an O-lineman to play your position instead. He’s got to have some pass skill and we definitely see that and we’re excited about him.”

Woerner had Pro Football Focus’ highest run blocking grade among all draft-eligible tight ends with at least 200 run-blocking snaps. His high school background as a running back, in which he had over 2,000 yards and 50 offensive touchdowns, could make him an option to fill in a fullback behind Pro Bowler Kyle Juszczyk. Woerner in college was used all over the formation, as he likely would be under Shanahan, and played fullback in spurts.

“I was raised to be selfless and I’ll do anything the team asks me to do,” Woerner said. “Those couple games that I had to go in at fullback, I did that to the best of my abilities. I’ll do anything for the team to win ball games. That’s what I’m all about.”


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