The 49ers have had some of the best wide receivers in the league to call upon -- the likes of Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens have turned out for the franchise.

This is all to say: some of San Francisco’s star tight ends have flown under the radar. In this Betway Insider top 10, we make sure they get their just due.

As usual, all stats are courtesy of and are accurate through the end of the 2023 NFL regular season.

Who is the San Francisco 49ers starting Tight End for the 2023 season?

The San Francisco 49ers starting tight end for the 2023 NFL season was George Kittle, who’s been the team’s starter since 2017.

San Francisco 49ers Tight Ends History

 49ers tight end history is primarily fixated on three men: George Kittle, Vernon Davis, and Brent Jones. Each man started a Super Bowl for the franchise.

Famous San Francisco 49ersTight Ends

Other famous tight ends for the 49ers include notable backups like Russ Francis and Delanie Walker. When you have such famous starters, your backups have to push themselves for opportunities.

Ranking the Top 10 Greatest San Francisco 49ers Tight Ends of all time

  1. John Frank, 1984-1988

Former San Francisco TE John Frank was primarily a backup tight end for much of his 49ers career. He only totaled 662 yards in 66 career games for San Francisco, but he did come up with some meaningful plays.

Frank caught 12 receiving touchdowns from QB Joe Montana, including two in the postseason. He also caught two passes in a winning effort in Super Bowl XXIII. Frank retired early to finish his medical school degree.

  1. Bob Windsor, 1967-1971

Former 49ers tight end Bob Windsor might be most remembered for his time as a New England Patriot, but he did have a successful early career in the Bay Area. While never one of the best tight ends in the league, Windsor did have some successful campaigns.

Windsor’s best season came in 1969 when he caught 49 passes for 597 yards and two touchdowns from QB John Brodie. In 1971, he caught a touchdown pass from Brodie in a winning effort against the Washington Redskins in the Divisional Playoffs.

  1. Eric Johnson, 2001-2006

Former 49ers TE Eric Johnson was a smart boy: he originally was a star tight end at Yale University. Perhaps his Ivy League status hurt his draft profile, as he fell into San Francisco’s lap in the seventh round of the 2001 NFL Draft.

If not for injuries, Johnson would rank far higher on this list. He tallied 300+ receiving yards in each of his first two campaigns before missing the entire 2003 campaign. He returned with a bang in 2004, catching 82 passes for 825 yards. Then, Johnson missed the entire 2005 season.

In all, Johnson has the seventh-most receiving yards in franchise history.

  1. Delanie Walker, 2006-2012

Before he was a perennial Pro Bowler for the Tennessee Titans, Delanie Walker was arguably the best backup TE in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers. In his seven years in the Bay, Walker was used in a variety of roles (slot receiver, fullback, 12 personnel) in order to get on the field alongside star TE Vernon Davis.

Had it not been for Davis, perhaps Walker would rank higher on this list. Even so, he still accumulated the eighth-most receiving yards of all 49ers TEs.

In Tennessee, Walker had four straight 800+ yard receiving seasons.

  1. Russ Francis, 1982-1987

Former 49ers TE Russ Francis is even MORE remembered for his time in New England than the aforementioned Bob Windsor. Francis was a 3x Pro Bowler and 2x Second-team All-Pro as a Patriot, setting the gold standard for New England tight ends before a certain Rob Gronkowski came around.

Francis came out of retirement to join the 49ers in 1982. He would become a key supporting piece in the QB Joe Montana-led offense, catching 186 passes and 12 touchdowns over parts of six seasons. Francis chipped in with 277 receiving yards in the playoffs and helped San Francisco capture Super Bowl XIX.

  1. Monty Stickles, 1960-1967

Why shouldn’t former 49ers TE Monty Stickles be forgotten? Here’s his San Fran CV:

  • 185 receptions (sixth amongst 49ers TEs)
  • 2,741 receiving yards (fourth amongst 49ers TEs)
  • 14 receiving touchdowns (fifth amongst 49ers TEs)

This was all while playing with the Hall of Fame QB play that so many other tight ends on this list enjoyed.

  1. Ted Kwalick, 1969-1974

Another forgotten past 49ers tight end is Ted Kwalick, who was one of MVP QB John Brodie’s favorite targets. The seventh overall pick in the 1969 NFL Draft didn’t hit the ground running, failing to even record 200 receiving yards over his first two NFL seasons.

Kwalick took off in 1971, reeling off the first of three straight Pro Bowl campaigns. His best season came in 1972 when Kwalick tallied 751 receiving yards and nine scores to earn First-team All-Pro honors.

In all, Kwalick has the fifth-most receiving yards amongst 49ers tight ends.

  1. Brent Jones, 1987-1997

Yes, somehow 3x Super Bowl Champion Brent Jones falls to #3 on our list of the best San Francisco 49ers tight ends of all time. This is by no fault of his own: Jones was a 1x First-team All-Pro, 2x Second-team All-Pro, 4x Pro Bowler, and even a Sports Illustrated cover athlete.

Jones has the most receiving yards of any tight end in 49ers playoff history, tallying 740 yards in a whopping 21 postseason contests.

  1. Vernon Davis, 2006-2015

Former 49ers TE Vernon Davis would also rank #1 on just about every other franchise’s all-time tight end list. He was one of the best TEs of his generation (even with suboptimal QB play early in his career), earning 2 Pro Bowl nods and the most touchdown receptions of any San Francisco tight end

While Brent Jones may have the most receiving yards in 49ers playoff history, Davis has the most receiving touchdowns with seven. None were more notable than his stunning fourth-quarter touchdown reception (in heavy traffic) to knock off the New Orleans Saints in the 2011 playoffs, giving San Francisco their first playoff win since 2002.

  1. George Kittle, 2017-Present

Why is current San Francisco starting TE George Kittle the best tight end in 49ers history? Here’s his San Fran CV:

What guarantees Kittle this spot? He’s just 30-years old and destined to produce even more.

Parameters of Rankings

Rankings are made based on a combination of 1) individual accomplishments, 2) team success, 3) franchise legacy, and 4) personal accolades.


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