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Spotlight: Vernon Davis

posted by Chris Smith on Jul 22nd

Chris Smith's thoughts

Vernon Davis, now entering his 6th season, has become a top fantasy tight end. He has a great mix of size, speed and route running prowess and is clearly the top receiving target on the 49ers. Safeties struggle to match up against him due to his strength while linebackers simply get left in his dust as he is a receiver in a tight end body. He truly is an impossible player to match up well against on defense.

Last year he caught 56 passes on a poor passing squad, added 914 receiving yards and scored 7 of 19 49ers touchdown receptions. The prior season he caught a staggering 13 touchdowns and finished with almost 1,000 receiving yards. Would love to see what he could do with a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning throwing his the ball.


Can he put up stats similar to 2009 or was that a one-year anomaly?

Vernon Davis is certainly capable of putting up monster statistics in any one season. However it is too much to expect for him to put up 13 receiving touchdowns each year. He tied a record that season with the 13 grabs and it is more realistic to expect from 7 to 9 from him each season. However he is certainly capable of hitting the 1,000 yard receiving mark and will do so if the team gets better quarterbacking. That leads to the 2nd question.

Can the 49ers passing attack improve in 2011?

While it is still Alex Smith that appears destined to be under center and his inconsistency has been terrible throughout his career, there is room for optimism. New head coach Jim Harbaugh has a wonderful repertoire with his quarterbacks and his presence on the squad should only help the passing game grow and improve as the season goes on. More confidence under center should equate into better statistics for Davis and the passing game.

Will Michael Crabtree elevate his play and if so, does that help or hinder Davis?

Crabtree had a good rookie campaign but failed to improve last year. He once again missed time during training camp and while he has the ability to be a good receiver within this system, he must start putting in the time to improve or he'll be nothing more than a serviceable option. If he does improve, it will actually help Davis to improve his statistics this year and beyond. Right now teams focus on stopping Davis and running back Frank Gore first and foremost. Add a strong receiving threat into the mix and Davis will find lots of open space down the field.

Can Davis leave the poor attitude behind him once and for all?

While Davis has certainly made strides over the past couple of seasons in developing a professional attitude and work ethic, his temper still does flare up and get the best of him at times. He'll need to continue making strides in being 100% committed to what is happening on the field and not getting sucked into petty problems.


  • Fantastic mix of speed, receiving prowess and size
  • Has finished as the 1st and 3rd best fantasy TE over past two season despite subpar QB play
  • Difficult match up for opposing defenses


  • Has struggled with drops in his career
  • Mediocre quarterback play can hinder him
  • Sub par receiving play has allowed defenses to key on him

Final thoughts

Davis is an elite tight end. Possibly he is the best at his position in the NFL right now. He managed to finish as the 1st and 3rd best fantasy TE in the NFL over the last two seasons despite mediocre quarterback play. Imagine the statistics he could put up with an elite signal caller under center. There is hope that Alex Smith will thrive under the guidance of Harbaugh this season and that Crabtree will make strides. If both of those happen, Davis should reach 1,000 receiving yards and could hit 10+ touchdowns.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Chicago Hooligan said:

Davis's catches were down last year but his YPC was way up. By my count he had 11 good fantasy performances - really good for a season of only 56 catches on a pedestrian offense. I don't know what SF's new offense will look like but they can't be too stupid to get Davis the ball at least a little more often.

Go Blue said:

Since I'm still not sold on Crabtree, I too see Davis as the focal point of the passing game.

Iwannabeacowboybaby! said:

I'm having a hard time coming up with a feel for Vernon Davis this year With the addition of Jim Harbaugh, a lack of quarterback presence and some health issues to kick around it's hard for me to be as bullish as I was last year at this time on Davis.

Still, Davis is the top passing threat on the 49ers team entering the season and is a TE that can get vertical. I think Harbaugh will try and use that to his advantage but I'm going to be conservative on my projections for Vernon Davis.

hauser42 said:

Harbaugh will get his weapons in the right spots and put up good numbers. He knows as a former QB how important that TE spot is and how to make some mismatches work for the team. Issue will be QB but Harbaugh should be able to help out that and improve the offense.

Vernon Davis projections

Chris Smith75975900
Message board consensus70974800