With George Kittle as the team’s No. 1 weapon, one might think the San Francisco 49ers are set when it comes to tight ends. Not quite.
A week after Jordan Reed reportedly joined San Francisco, the former Washington tight end officially joined the 49ers on Sunday after passing COVID-19 tests and having a successful physical.
Schefter sums up both the concern and the reason why San Francisco is bringing the former Florida Gator to Santa Clara, California: his injury history is a red flag, but when on the field, Reed has been one of the best tight ends of the past decade.
Breaking Down Reed’s Career
After a solid, but not groundbreaking three years at Florida, Reed entered the 2013 NFL Draft and was selected by Washington in the third round.
From his rookie year, it was clear that Reed had immense talent and athleticism, totaling 499 yards and three touchdowns in his debut season in the league.
However, in a situation that became common throughout his time in the NFL, Reed only played a total of 9 games, which makes those numbers even more impressive.
After an 11-game 2014 that featured no touchdowns and 465 yards, Reed proceeded to have his best two years in the NFL in 2015 and 2016, starting with a whopping 952 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015.
His sole Pro Bowl selection in 2016 came after another impressive year, but a slight downturn in production due to missed games, but still finished with 686 receiving yards and six touchdowns to boot.
Continued concussion problems meant that Reed’s 2017 and 2018 were marred by injury, but even in those seasons, it was clear that Reed still had the ability, but was not able to get himself on the field, which led to his year away from play last season.
Before 2017 and 2018, Reed averaged an impressive 55.7 receiving yards per game and also had 20 touchdowns over those four seasons. If anything, the numbers alone show that Reed produces.
How Does Reed Fit with the 49ers?
Kittle is the complete package, and there’s pretty much no situation other than a designed play for Reed that Kittle would not be the first tight end hitting the field.
But you know what’s hard? Guarding athletic tight ends. You know what’s harder? Guarding two of them.
Whether it shows up in Reed’s stats or not, his presence is one that teams cannot ignore, just like they can’t ignore Kittle’s. Having both lined up in “12 personnel” means that something will likely have to give, and one of the two ought to be able to get open on passing plays.
This is not to mention that having the pair out there as blockers is also excellent. Reed isn’t famous for his blocking, but has proven to be up-to-standard.
If teams play the pass, there’s too many athletes to deal with. If teams play the run, it may not matter with two excellent tight ends adding to the offensive line’s job. All in all, this deal makes perfect sense.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.