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Player Spotlight: Vernon Davis

A detailed look at Vernon Davis' fantasy prospects for 2013

Vernon Davis was a forgotten man in 2012. He was the oil to Colin Kaepernick's water during the regular season.

  • 41 receptions (28th among tight ends)
  • 548 receiving yards (17th)
  • 5 touchdowns (10th)
  • TE15 fantasy ranking
  • One 100-yard game

Yet, when the 49ers journeyed into the playoffs, things changed for the 8-year veteran.

  • Vs. Green Bay (Divisional) -- 1 reception for 44 yards
  • Vs. Atlanta (NFC Championship) -- 5 receptions for 106 yards and 1 TD
  • Vs. Baltimore (Super Bowl) -- 6 receptions for 104 yards
  • TOTAL PLAYOFFS -- 12 receptions for 254 yards (21.2 yards per reception) and a TD

So what do we make of Davis' prospects for the 2013 season? Will he continue to be overlooked, as he was during the regular season? Or did the playoff connection signify a new level of rapport, and set the table for a resurgent year?

Crabtree's Injury and Boldin's Trade

The 49ers traded for Anquan Boldin BEFORE Michael Crabtree suffered his Achilles injury. The plan was for Boldin and Crabtree to start together, which would've raised fears that Davis would be a forgotten man yet again. But then Crabtree's injury reshaped expectations, with Boldin stepping into the WR1 role and an as yet undetermined young receiver stepping into the #2 spot. The lack of a proven WR2 makes it far more likely that the Davis we saw in the playoffs will be the Davis we see on the field this September.

Colin Kaepernick hasn't reached his potential

I'm seeing a lot of football analysts argue against Colin Kaepernick as an elite fantasy quarterback this year. While that debate may or may not have merit, it seems ridiculous to argue that we've seen the best from the young quarterback. Last year he started half a season, and managed to get his team to the Super Bowl. Are you really going to tell me that Kaepernick won't improve in his second season as a starter? That having an entire offseason as the first team signal caller doesn't portend improvement? 

You down with ADP...Yeah You Know Me! (cue the Naughty by Nature)

The dilemma fantasy owners have with Davis is his projected ADP (62nd overall) but I think he's a perfect piece to build around considering the other options coming off the board in the same range. 

ADPPlayerTeamRank
53 Danny Amendola NE/10 WR20
54 Ryan Mathews SD/8 RB25
55 Tony Gonzalez ATL/6 TE4
56 Mike Wallace MIA/6 WR21
57 Chris Ivory NYJ/10 RB26
58 Matthew Stafford DET/9 QB7
59 Colin Kaepernick SF/9 QB8
60 Eric Decker DEN/9 WR22
61 Eddie Lacy GB/4 RB27
62 Vernon Davis SF/9 TE5
63 Robert Griffin III WAS/5 QB9
64 Torrey Smith BAL/8 WR23
65 Russell Wilson SEA/12 QB10
66 Andrew Luck IND/8 QB11
67 Pierre Garcon WAS/5 WR24
68 Antonio Brown PIT/5 WR25
69 Steve Smith CAR/4 WR26
70 Rashard Mendenhall ARI/9 RB28
71 Ahmad Bradshaw IND/8 RB29
72 James Jones GB/4 WR27

I personally like Davis a lot more than many of the other options you're going to be faced with in the 5th or 6th round. I would prefer Davis to the likes of Danny Amendola, Ryan Mathews, Chris Ivory and several of the quarterbacks on this list. 

POSITIVES

  • Davis is a physical marvel, arguably the strongest player at his position
  • Colin Kaepernick started to trust Davis in the playoffs, and they should have built rapport this preseason now that Kaepernick took all the 1st team snaps
  • The lack of proven receiving options beyond Anquan Boldin makes it difficult to imagine Davis won't be oft targeted

NEGATIVES

  • Davis was not a major part of the game plan during the 49ers playoff push under Kaepernick
  • Davis' fantasy ranking has been on a four-year decline (from 1st to 3rd to 8th to 15th)
  • San Francisco is among the most run heavy teams in the league

FINAL THOUGHTS

Vernon Davis finished 15th last year, and fell short of expectations on every level.  While it's important to note Davis'  four-year decline, he was steadfastly in the TE1 range until last year and remains in his prime, in fantastic shape, and motivated. Davis was arguably the 49ers best offensive player in the NFL playoffs, and would've probably been the Super Bowl MVP had the 49ers won the game. With Colin Kaepernick having an entire offseason as the top passer, they have been able to build off last year's playoff run and put to rest any concerns their lack of connectivity in the regular season may have caused. With Michael Crabtree out for most, if not all, of this season, Davis seems a lock to be among the most targeted players at his position. Although some are eschewing the TE position if they don't grab Graham or Gronkowski early, I think Davis deserves consideration in the 5th round, and absolutely projects as a valuable asset in the 6th round or later. 

PROJECTIONS

Staff MemberRecsYdsTDsFPTs
David Dodds 62 787 7 121
Bob Henry 58 760 7 118
Jason Wood 56 700 6 106
Maurile Tremblay 59 740 6 110

THOUGHTS FROM AROUND THE WEB

Footballguys' own Chase Stuart analyzes what Vernon Davis' season will look like if they move him to wide receiver:

Historically, it wasn’t uncommon for players to play both tight end and wide receiver. Former Jets Rich Caster and Jerome Barkum both entered the league as wide receivers but were playing tight end in the early ’80s. Jerry Smith, Dave Parks, Gary Ballman, Carroll Dale, Dave Kocourek, Preston Carpenter, Frank Clarke, and Bobby Walston all played both positions in the ’60s and/or ’70s. Pete Retzlaff had a great career with the Eagles, spending four years at tight end and four at wide receiver. If Davis is able to successfully make such a transition — even if it’s as a hybrid tight end/slot receiver/outside receiver — it would just be another way in which Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers are old school.

John Paulsen of 4for4 took a hard look and reconsidered Davis in spite of prior disappointments:

Over the past two years, 31 still-active tight ends have garnered at least 100 total targets. Davis ranks 4th in fantasy points per target (1.28 FP/T), which is one of my favorite measures of productivity. That equals Antonio Gates and ranks ahead of Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez and Aaron Hernandez. In 2009 and 2010 (when Davis finished #1 and #3, respectively), he averaged 1.39 FP/T.


More from Jason Wood:

On Second Thought: Defenses and Kickers - August 28
On Second Thought: Running Backs - August 28
On Second Thought: Tight Ends - August 28
On Second Thought: Quarterbacks - August 28
On Second Thought: Wide Receivers - August 28
What If Roddy White or Julio Jones Are Lost for the Season? - August 19
What If Robert Griffin III Is Lost for the Season? - August 19
What If Cecil Shorts Is Lost for the Season? - August 19
Player Spotlight: Philip Rivers - August 8
Player Spotlight: Jordan Cameron - August 7