Spotlight: Vernon Davis

posted by Cecil Lammey on Jun 30th


Cecil Lammey's thoughts

Vernon Davis has finally become everything the 49ers hoped for when they selected him with the 6th overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Under the careful guidance of head coach Mike Singletary he developed fully as a blocker and blossomed as a receiving threat. Singletary's tough love gave Davis guidance and direction - even when the talented tight end didn't seem to want it.

He finished as the best tight end in fantasy football last year, scoring an amazing 13 touchdowns and racking up almost 1000-yards receiving. Davis creates a mismatch every time he's on the field. He's big, strong, freakishly athletic, and an aggressive receiver. Too big for safeties to cover, and too fast for linebackers to cover, Davis finds himself open early and often.

There have been some speed bumps along his NFL journey, ones he hopes to avoid this year. He's butted heads with coach Singletary from time to time, and sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him on the field. This leads to unnecessary penalties, and can put his team in a bad position. He'll need to show more emotional restraint and maturity if he wants to stop making those kind of mistakes.

He's in the final year of his rookie contract, and looking to be the highest paid tight end in league history. He'll need to prove himself once again this year, but many feel he won't match the record setting numbers he had last season. That doesn't mean he won't have a very good season, just one that is not as productive as 2009.

Last year, Vernon Davis had a career year (78 receptions, 965 yards, 13 touchdowns). The 49ers want to be a run heavy team, but does that automatically mean a decrease in production for their talented tight end? Let's take a closer look at Vernon Davis to see if he can live up to expectations in 2010.

Questions about Vernon coming into 2010:

How will the 49ers rededication to the run game change his production?
The 49ers are going to stress the run game this year, and Frank Gore should get many more touches than any players in the passing game. San Francisco selected not one, but two offensive lineman (OT Anthony Davis, OG Mike Iupati) in the first-round of the 2010 NFL Draft which really emphasized their new direction. When the team gets to the red zone they might not be looking to air the ball out to Davis anymore. This new offensive philosophy could drop his number of targets (and quality redzone targets) in 2010.

Will the emergence of Michael Crabtree make his numbers go down?
This might change his numbers more than some people expect as there's only one football to go around. Crabtree has the skill set to develop into one of the best wide receivers in the game today, and his talent demands the football be thrown his way. Last season Crabtree played in only 11 games after a lengthy holdout, and it took him some time to get up to speed. This year Crabtree will be starting - and starring - from day one.

Can he score double digit touchdowns again?
Sure, he can - but that doesn't mean he will. In 2009 Davis tied the single-season league record for most TD catches from a tight end last year with 13. Touchdowns are one of the most unpredictable stats in fantasy football, and it could be difficult for him to reach double digits again. He is certainly a trusted red zone target for Alex Smith, but he's no longer the only playmaking weapon the quarterback can look to.

Will he still drop too many passes this year?
He's elevated his game, both as a blocker and a receiver - but he still drops too many easy passes. Davis has incredible run after the catch ability and sometimes is simply peeking ahead to see the field instead of properly securing the football. We'll have to wait and see if he's improved this skill set once the regular season begins. It's a contract year for Davis, and as he plays out the final year of his rookie contract his game should be very sharp.

Will his character get in the way of further development?
Davis is known to lose his cool from time to time and get dumb penalties because of it. He's an emotional player who does not hide his true feelings, and that gets him off his game sometime. Davis has also had a few clashes with head coach Mike Singletary. His hot head may draw some more penalties this year, and that could result in discipline from the 49ers. It's unlikely they would suspend him, but putting him on the bench or fining him might be a way to send him a message.

Positives

  • Elite athleticism.
  • Matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
  • Strong work ethic and team leader.

Negatives

  • Could have targets go down due to 49ers offensive philosophy.
  • Drops too many passes.
  • Quarterback could hold him back.

Final thoughts

The 49ers are looking to be a more run-heavy team this year featuring RB Frank Gore. This could lead to a drop in production from Vernon Davis, but it's not the only reason he may not match his production from last year. The emergence of WR Michael Crabtree could mean fewer targets (and red zone targets) for Davis as well. This should translate to fewer touchdowns (and fantasy points) this season. His current ADP is TE3, and he may not even finish that high although he shouldn't fall out of the top five. Davis is in a contract year, but is not in for a career year with the 49ers.


Quotations from the message board thread

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

Footballguys Staff Writer Chase Stuart said:

Vernon Davis had insane touchdown production last season. In addition to tying Antonio Gates' record for touchdowns in a season by a tight end, he also caught a bunch of long touchdowns. All told, his 13 touchdowns covered 252 yards last season, and he had six touchdowns of 20 yards or more. Those numbers are huge outliers for modern times, although such performances were more common in the '60s:

Year TD Dist Avg 20+ 30+ 40+ 50+ Team Player Name
1966 9 484 53.8 7 6 6 6 BAL John Mackey
1969 9 438 48.7 7 6 6 5 CIN Bob Trumpy
1961 12 400 33.3 8 7 4 1 CHI Mike Ditka
1972 10 351 35.1 7 4 3 2 NYJ Rich Caster
1967 9 343 38.1 6 4 4 4 STL Jackie Smith
1961 9 306 34.0 4 4 3 3 HOU Billy Cannon
1963 7 306 43.7 7 6 4 3 BAL John Mackey
1965 7 272 38.9 6 6 2 2 BAL John Mackey
1967 9 253 28.1 7 6 1 0 NYG Aaron Thomas
2009 13 252 19.4 6 2 1 1 SFO Vernon Davis
1972 8 247 30.9 5 2 2 2 OAK Raymond Chester
1974 7 238 34.0 4 4 2 1 NYJ Rich Caster
1967 10 234 23.4 5 3 3 1 OAK Billy Cannon
1989 9 224 24.9 3 3 2 2 CIN Rodney Holman
1977 9 220 24.4 3 2 2 2 NOR Henry Childs
1961 4 219 54.8 3 3 3 3 SDG Dave Kocourek
1968 7 218 31.1 4 2 2 1 BOS Jim Whalen
1968 6 212 35.3 3 3 3 3 SDG Jacque MacKinnon
1967 10 208 20.8 4 2 1 1 SDG Willie Frazier
1979 9 208 23.1 5 2 1 1 CLE Ozzie Newsome
2007 9 204 22.7 5 3 1 0 SDG Antonio Gates
1973 6 202 33.7 5 5 2 1 NYJ Jerome Barkum
1963 3 201 67.0 3 3 2 2 PIT Red Mack
2001 8 198 24.8 3 2 2 1 IND Marcus Pollard
1993 9 194 21.6 4 3 2 2 DEN Shannon Sharpe
1964 8 193 24.1 5 3 0 0 KAN Fred Arbanas
1981 8 192 24.0 4 3 1 1 HOU Dave Casper
1999 11 189 17.2 2 1 1 1 KAN Tony Gonzalez
1980 8 189 23.6 5 3 0 0 NWE Russ Francis
1985 7 187 26.7 4 2 2 2 CIN Rodney Holman
1984 6 184 30.7 4 3 1 1 NOR Hoby Brenner
1968 3 183 61.0 3 3 3 2 CIN Bob Trumpy
1967 12 181 15.1 4 1 0 0 WAS Jerry Smith
1998 10 178 17.8 4 1 0 0 DEN Shannon Sharpe
1972 9 177 19.7 3 1 1 1 SFO Ted Kwalick
1975 3 177 59.0 3 3 3 2 KAN Walter White
1996 9 176 19.6 3 1 1 1 NWE Ben Coates
1962 6 176 29.3 4 3 3 1 HOU Bob McLeod
1983 12 172 14.3 3 1 1 0 RAI Todd Christensen
1965 5 172 34.4 5 2 1 1 NYG Aaron Thomas
2009 10 171 17.1 3 1 1 1 IND Dallas Clark
1970 4 171 42.8 3 3 3 1 STL Jackie Smith
1973 6 168 28.0 3 2 1 1 PHI Charle Young
2004 13 166 12.8 1 1 1 1 SDG Antonio Gates
2005 10 166 16.6 3 1 0 0 SDG Antonio Gates
2006 9 166 18.4 3 2 1 1 SDG Antonio Gates
1970 7 163 23.3 4 2 1 0 OAK Raymond Chester
1964 4 163 40.8 3 3 3 1 STL Jackie Smith
1979 7 160 22.9 3 1 1 1 TAM Jimmie Giles

rzrback77 said:

Vernon Davis is an unbelievable athlete. He has excellent speed and great moves. However, his career catch percentage is just under 60%. I think that he is capable of performing near his 09 production, when he was targeted a career high of 129 times and had 78 catches for 965 yards and an amazing 13 TDs. I just can't get myself convinced to expect that production.

He finished as the TE #1 in 2009 and is being drafted acccordingly at TE#3 and 49 overall. I just don't trust either him or Alex Smith to produce that well. I also look for more targets, especially in the red zone for Michael Crabtree.

I will be waiting till later to take a TE as their are too many options that I expect can produce close enough to the top TEs at a much cheaper price.

travdogg said:

I've completely convinced that Vernon Davis has turned the corner, and is just beginning a several year run of being an elite TE. He's my #1 TE in dynasty leagues and redrafts. A lot is being made of the fact that his numbers may have been inflated because of San Fran running a spread offense at times last year, but I think while they may pass less, they will pass more effectively and Davis could become an incredible force on playaction passes. I also think his catch percentage and yards per catch will both increase given a full offseason of working with Alex Smith.

Creed Bratton said:

I think that Vernon Davis is the real deal. But unlike most of the previous posters, I don't think he's going to have the same opportunity to produce the numbers that he did last season. Singletary wanted to run the ball last season, but was unable to and went with the spread offense. To their credit, they put their offensive players in the best position to succeed and Davis was able to produce. But Singletary is a coach who wants to run the football and had a tendency to get very conservative offensively last season when the 49ers had a lead late in games. Crabtree is most likely going to become a bigger part of the passing offense than he was last season and will command his own share of attention as well. There's going to be fewer pass attempts and Crabtree getting more targets than he did last season.

I think all this means that Vernon Davis is going to get fewer targets than he did last season. So, the only way he's going to be as productive as he was last year is to increase his efficiency. As Chase previously pointed out, he had over 250 yards on his 13 TD receptions and those figures are unlikely to be repeated. His catch percentage is also unlikely to increase as last season's catch percentage was closely correlated with his catch percentage before his breakout season last year(slightly over 60%). As a Vernon Davis owner last year, I saw instances of him dropping passes that he probably should have caught. And according to profootballfocus.com, they had Vernon Davis as one of the worst five TEs in Drop % last season. There's no questioning the impact he made last season, but I question whether he can be a more efficient player.


Vernon Davis projections

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