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Spotlight: Fred Davis

posted by Jason Wood on Jul 31st


Jason Wood's thoughts

Fred Davis has to be excited. After 23 wins in four NFL seasons, the Washington Redskins have finally added a potential franchise quarterback. Gone are the days of Jason Campbell, an aging Donovan McNabb, Todd Collins, Rex Grossman and John Beck. For now and the foreseeable future, Davis will be catching passes from Robert Griffin III, the explosive, exciting 2nd overall pick from Baylor University.

Expectations are sky high for a Redskins team that now feels it can compete in an absolutely loaded NFC East. For that to happen, Griffin is going to need reliable weapons, and Fred Davis has to be a big part of the game plan.

Davis is a 6'3", 250 pound tight end that's part of the new breed of athletic, fluid pass-catching options at the position. But don't let that description mislead you, he's a more-than-capable blocker which is why the Redskins saw fit to place the franchise tag designation on Davis this offseason.

At first glance, Davis' career numbers don't look worthy of a potential Top 5 fantasy finish:

Year Gms Tgts Recs Yards YPR TDs FPTs Rank
2008 10 10 3 27 9 0 2 86
2009 16 76 48 509 10.6 6 87 16
2010 16 31 21 316 15 3 50 31
2011 12 87 59 793 13.4 3 97 12
TOT 54 204 131 1645 12.6 12 236

Why is someone that's yet to finish in the Top 10 being drafted 8th at his position, and being touted by some as a Top 5 sleeper? The devil is in the details. If you notice, last year Davis only played 12 games. He missed the final four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Prior to those four games, Davis was producing at a Top 5 level:

Rank First Last Year Tgts Recs Yards YPR TDs FPTs
1 Rob Gronkowski 2011 90 65 928 14.3 13 177.0
2 Jimmy Graham 2011 111 74 1,036 14.0 8 151.6
3 Tony Gonzalez 2011 93 66 730 11.1 7 115.0
4 Jason Witten 2011 92 61 760 12.5 5 106.0
5 Fred Davis 2011 87 58 793 13.7 3 97.3
6 Jermichael Finley 2011 67 42 600 14.3 6 96.0
7 Dustin Keller 2011 79 43 586 13.6 4 82.6
8 Aaron Hernandez 2011 78 54 523 9.7 5 82.5
9 Vernon Davis 2011 65 48 515 10.7 5 81.3
10 Antonio Gates 2011 66 46 533 11.6 4 77.3

When you consider that Davis accomplished this without quality quarterbacking, it stands to reason his opportunities should only increase if Robert Griffin III lives up to his reputation. You also need to remember that Davis had to fight the incumbency of Chris Cooley in prior seasons, but at this juncture Cooley is no longer a threat - in fact, it's unclear whether he'll make the final 53-man roster.

Positives

  • Davis is part of the new breed of ultra-athletic tight ends; he has the strength to dominate defensive backs but the speed to make linebackers look foolish
  • Robert Griffin III should be a major improvement at quarterback, assuring more accurate targets on a more consistent basis
  • Davis was producing Top 5 numbers last year before a 4-game suspension, yet many fantasy owners still view him as a player that's yet to play at an elite level

Negatives

  • The Redskins added Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan in free agency, and also hope to see more from Leonard Hankerson; if those receivers pan out, Davis could see fewer targets per game
  • Serving a four-game suspension last year, Davis runs a high risk of a more significant suspension if he falls prey to the substance abuse policy again
  • The Redskins offensive line has question marks, which may require Davis staying in to block and blitz protect more than the Shanahans would otherwise prefer

Final thoughts

Consider Davis the ultimate consolation prize. The tight end position is garnering more attention in the top rounds than ever before, but not everyone can or will use a 1st or 2nd round pick on the likes of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. Davis is coming off the board, on average, in the 7th or 8th round -- and yet we know he can deliver top 5 numbers in ideal circumstances, and top 10 numbers as a baseline projection.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

Sabertooth said:

You'd have to think RG3 is going to lean on Davis. They don't have a lot at the skill spots right now. I'd argue Davis is perhaps the best they have relative to his peers.

msommer said:

[Fred] is a suspension waiting to happen


Fred Davis projections

RECRECYDRECTDRSHYDRSHTD
Jason Wood68820500
Message board consensus61760500