It's tough to really grade the San Francisco 49ers when it comes to certain positions. Given the fact that Jim Harbaugh was supposed to come to the team and bring with him a power-running team with an emphasis on versatile tight ends in the passing game, one would say they did not perform up to those expectations. Early on, the offense did favor the tight ends in Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, but neither managed to really ... be open as much as one needs to run that kind of offense.
As such, throughout the course of the season, all three tight ends on the roster fell into more of a blocking role - and they all did it very well. When you consider that, they get higher marks, but one has to feel that it was a slightly disappointing performance from this group. It's not a stretch to say that you expect nothing short of straight A's. That being said, a strong performance in the playoffs from one of them certainly bumped it up a little.
Vernon Davis is not nearly as consistent as one would like, but he showed up big time in the playoffs, and was a key contributor in the 49ers making it past the New Orleans Saints. Early on, folks expected a lot out of him, given Jim Harbaugh's tight-end driven offense, but he was double-covered for a good portion of the opening few weeks and his chances were few and far between. Eventually, the 49ers started to use him more for blocking, and the double coverage slowly went away.
The problem? Davis still wasn't a huge factor in the passing game. Teams stopped putting double coverage on him, and he relapsed into having a case of the dropsies. More than that, Davis regressed in his ability to lay out and really go after balls. In short, he became everything 49ers fans disliked about him until Mike Singletary pulled his pants down and sent him to the showers. (That sentence was awesome to write!) But again, Davis did show up for the playoffs and he is insanely good at blocking. It's hard to be really strict with his grade. B+
Delanie Walker had a pretty normal year for him ... on opposite day. Walker suddenly became this dynamic blocker who left it all on the field, especially from a fullback position. Unfortunately, he became less and less of a factor, and unfortunately, he picked the wrong Giants game to step up in. In an offense that was supposed to feature two prominent tight ends, Walker didn't impress by any stretch of the imagination. Still, he's in shape, his presence on the field always has to be accounted for by defense, and his blocking was something to admire. B-
Justin Peelle was essentially a non-factor, but his blocking ability in the absence of Bruce Miller was definitely there. He missed assignments pretty frequently in run blocking from the No. 2 tight end position, but he performed well in the H-back/fullback role, which could help his chances of remaining on the roster in 2012. If he can be a backup fullback, then the 49ers may cut ties with Moran Norris and embrace the fact that, in a nutshell, Peelle is a versatile blocker. B-
Overall Grade: B