Blog Entry

Vernon Davis, The 6th Lineman

Posted on: January 11, 2009 3:00 am

With the 6th pick in the 1st round of the 2006 draft, the San Francisco 49ers select...TE Vernon Davis. What?! NFL tight ends usually aren't drafted this early. So Davis better be damn good,Right? In 3 seasons, Davis has only averaged 34 catches, 377 yards and 3 TDs per year. For a guy that measures in at 6'3", 250 lbs and runs a 4.38 40 yard dash, this guy should be putting up Antonio Gates type numbers. So what gives?

For starters, Davis has been saddled by erratic play at QB. Alex Smith never turned into the franchise QB that could make all the necessary throws...including the ones that should go to his top receivers. Watching Smith play was agonizing for the most part. Outside of 2006 where Norv Turner was the offensive coordinator. Smith was mainly injured or flat out unproductive. Inconsistency at QB never allowed Davis to develop rapport with the person throwing him the ball.

Secondly, the 49ers offensive line never played well enough for downfield receiving option to develop forcing many underneath throws. Ironically, some of Davis' more impressive plays consisted of underneath crossing routes. But the idea of having an athlete like Davis is to stretch the field.

Thirdly, Davis has been plagued with the case of the dropsies. Now I don't know what the official statline is but I do know that Davis dropped balls in key situations more than once this year. Solid coaching can turn this around. But if Davis caught the balls he was supposed to catch, then I wouldn't be writing this article right now.

Now the fourth and main point of this article is that Davis has spent a great deal of time as a blocker. As mentioned above, the offensive line never played up to par. The line play steadily improved this season but early on, Davis was being utilized as an extra blocker for Mike Martz's high octane offense (an offense that never really took off). Also, Martz's offense was never known to utilize the TE.

Now this fourth and final point really stands out to me. It begs the question, "is Vernon Davis really a bust?" Singletary has tabbed Davis as one of the best blockers he has ever seen. It is under this capacity that I had to rethink what would justify Davis as a bust. Davis receives many compliments about his blocking. Davis himself admits that he is a capable blocker and once stated that if the coaches asked him to gain 50 lbs and play OT, then he would do it. So how is this different than an offensive lineman drafted 6th overall?

We draft offensive tackles in the top 10 to protect our QB. I have yet to see Davis miss a blocking assignment. He consistently shuts down the opposing teams' pass rushers. Back in week 15, Joey Porter didn't have one sack against Davis. Porter's lone sack came against RT Barry Sims when Davis was off the field. So if we view Davis as a blocker, then he's done well for himself. Everybody wants to tag Davis as a bust because his measurable stats don't add up. But Davis' greatest contributions is not listed on the stat sheet. Given Davis' skills as a blocker and his flexibility to run patterns and catch passes, I would say that Davis is quite an asset. He may very well be the most valuable 6th lineman on the team.

So there you have it. Vernon Davis...the 6th lineman.

Category: NFL

Since: Nov 16, 2006
Posted on: February 11, 2009 10:02 pm

Vernon Davis, The 6th Lineman

Good responses everyone. I wanted to provide an abstract view of Davis. It just wasn't fair to rate him solely on receiving stats. He just didn't get very many opportunities this year. But I agree that we need to see more from him. I think 2009 will be the year. If not, then it will be time to cut him loose.

Since: Feb 7, 2009
Posted on: February 11, 2009 9:14 pm

Vernon Davis, The 6th Lineman

No doubt the guy can block. It's still frustrating for us niners fans to have a TE with that much speed and power being used simply to block. Davis has stone hands, and coaching can fix a lot of things, but I can't remember in recent memory a habitual dropper being reformed. Our QB play has been erratic, but when a ball hits you in the hands you have to catch it, no matter who's throwing it. I like the optimism, but with all of the potential this guy had coming out of college it's hard not to be disappointed in his overall production.

Since: Aug 12, 2008
Posted on: January 12, 2009 7:16 pm

Vernon Davis, The 6th Lineman

I think things are going to change for Vernon Davis. Once Singeltary slapped the sense into the pre-madonna, VD started doing much better. He is very talented - so much to the point he is a reserve Pro-bowler. Davis is still really young, and has a lot to prove if he wants to become an elite offensive threat in the NFL.

The point was made that his hands are bad. We all see this, and so did Mike Martz. Martz ran the offense, and I know we all see the fact he would rather have someone who can block the QB than drop passes. In AZ, he made a sweet catch to promote himself a little on a bigger stage known as Monday Night Football.

He needs confidence but also needs the chance to improve. He should be working really hard this offseason on what matters - Catching the football. The man has the size, speed and hunger to become great, but sometimes the most basic of things need to be repeated over and over until the player gets the message.


Since: Jul 22, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2009 9:58 pm

Vernon Davis, The 6th Lineman

Fantastic post Thrash.  I never though about it that way.  I also never thought that he was a bust.  But when you put it that way it really lets you know just how good he is.  There is no way for him to go but up.  WOW once again great post.  49ers 4ever!!!

Since: Aug 4, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2009 2:43 pm

Vernon Davis, The 6th Lineman

He's an excellent blocker given the Tight End position, but keep in mind that Davis is primarily blocking linebackers and DB blitzes if the occasion calls for it, not defensive lineman. I think that the public perception is that he is a bust because he didn't live up to expectations for the reasons that we drafted him which was to create a mismatch a spread the middle of the field with his freakish athletic and offensive abilities.

I wouldn't label Davis as a complete bust, but to compare him to a blue-chip offensive tackle is a bit overdrawn. He's not exactly a cornerstone O-lineman, and as such, I wouldn't pay him as one. I for one would like to see him live up to his expectations on offense. It's tough to do given we set the bar so high; drafting a TE @ #6 is NOT what I had in mind, we easily could have traded down and drafted him 5-6 slots lower, perhaps even deeper than that. Since you cannot guarantee the NFL pedigree of a draft player, for example Davis will 100% be just as good as Gates with similar #s, I see zero justification for ever drafting a TE in the top 10.

I commend Davis for his blocking ability and I agree with alot of your points Thrash, but I'm going to have to disagree and label him as an "offensive threat" bust.

Since: Sep 16, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2009 12:36 pm

Vernon Davis, The 6th Lineman

Well done Thrash.  Impressive view point, its so true that we draft TE to catch the ball and OT to block but really TE do both.  Maybe we should pay them twice as much for double dipping.  I don't think Davis as a bust in anything but fantasy leagues.  He's a driven player, hard worker and takes criticism like a man should.  I think thats why Singletary likes and respects him so much.  I don't remember Bert Jones getting any blocking awards or accolades but Davis should.  He's a great team player and will do whatever he's asked to do.  Ask Antonio Gates or Kellen Winslow to block Joey Porter all game long and they would fold under the strain.  It would be nice though to use his other skills and speed once in a while.

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