Charlie Woerner didn't catch the ball much at Georgia, but the rookie tight end could have a lot more passes come his way with the 49ers.
The Athletic's David Lombardi examined Woerner's potential fit within coach Kyle Shanahan's offense in a feature story Monday, noting that the 2020 sixth-round pick's athleticism could allow him to benefit from the attention opposing defenses pay to the 49ers' other weapons on offense. Woerner caught just 34 passes for 376 yards (and one touchdown) in four years at Georgia, but his high school coach said the tight end is capable of reaching much higher heights as a pro.
“Charlie is a tremendous athlete,” former Raburn County High School coach Lee Shaw told Lombardi. “He’s a diamond in the rough when it comes to developing into what I feel like can be another (Rob) Gronkowski-type player for somebody in the league, which looks like it’s gonna be the 49ers.”
Gronkowski, who came out of retirement this offseason to join former New England Patriots teammate Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was a far more prolific collegiate pass-catcher than Woerner. He caught 75 passes for 1,197 yards in two seasons at Arizona, scoring 16 touchdowns during that time and earning third-team AP All-American honors in 2008.
Woerner's limited involvement in Georgia's passing game wasn't for a lack of skill, according to his quarterback. Buffalo Bills draftee Jake Fromm played with Woerner for three seasons, and he told Lombardi the Bulldogs chose to mostly rely on Woerner's blocking prowess.
“I would say Charlie, he definitely got used more as a blocker, but that wasn’t because of anything Charlie couldn’t do,” Fromm said. “That was a lot more because of scheme and the way we were approaching the games. Charlie’s definitely more than capable of going out and making plays, running routes, catching balls -- whatever you need to do, he’s more than capable.”
George Kittle didn't have extensive pass-catching experience at Iowa, but he has become one of the NFL's best tight ends under Shanahan's tutelage. Lombardi noted that Woerner isn't as explosive as Kittle, but the 49ers can utilize the rookie's athleticism.
If Woerner's high school coach is to be believed, they could potentially rely on the rookie for more than that.