TE prospect from Maryland to keep an eye on


The 49ers could be in the market for a tight end when they enter the 2022 NFL draft. TE Ross Dwelley is set to hit free agency and 2020 sixth-round selection Charlie Woerner hasn’t put a stranglehold on the backup TE spot. One intriguing player San Francisco could target in the draft is Maryland’s Chigoziem Okonkwo (Chiggo-zem OH-konk-woe).

Okonkwo had meetings with virtually every team at the Shrine Bowl, but per Justin Melo of the Draft Network the 49ers were among the teams he had more in-depth talks with.

It would behoove San Francisco to add another dynamic playmaker at tight end since neither Dwelley nor Woerner developed into that role, leaving virtually all of the receiving production at TE to come from George Kittle. They’ve tried a couple times to find that player and haven’t been able to secure one.

Okonkwo is listed at 6-2, 244 pounds and while the raw receiving numbers don’t jump off the page, his athleticism really stands out in video.

As a freshman he started four games and caught six balls for 69 yards and one touchdown. He also had three carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Okonkwo started three games the following year and improved to 19 catches, 201 receiving yards and two receiving TDs.

His ascent was halted before his junior season when chest pains forced him to the hospital where he learned his 2020 campaign was over.

“The MRI showed that I had some scarring on my heart and that’s when they told me that I had myocarditis,” Okonkwo told UMTerps.com. “They told me that I had to sit out for six months, so I knew then that my season was over.”

He rallied back from the once dire prognosis and broke out with a huge senior year where he posted 52 receptions, 447 yards and five touchdowns in 13 starts.

His physicality and athleticism after the catch are both things that would fit nicely in the 49ers’ passing offense, but he spent plenty of time at Maryland blocking which would be a requirement to get on the field in the pros. Okonkwo worked as an in-line blocker, but also went in motion a lot and is capable of filling a similar role to the one Kyle Juszczyk occupies in the 49ers’ offense.

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That versatility is something San Francisco could use on their tight end depth chart behind Kittle, and their Shrine Bowl meeting with Okonkwo shouldn’t be their last talk with him.

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