Vernon Davis: Is He the Best TE in the NFL?


Dec 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (85) prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Setup

Ask any San Francisco 49er fan who the best player on the team is, and you’re likely to get any of 53 different answers.  As a fanbase, the love for the team goes roster-wide, where other teams fans tend to focus on just the playmakers, fans love this roster.  Love is a funny thing, though. Love tends to pool for sports teams, towards the best players and roster-wide support aside, the 49ers have hands-down some of the most talented players in the entire NFL.  Near the top of the list, the discussion absolutely must include 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.  Davis has, over the course of his career, proven himself a capable playmaker at all stages of the game.

As a blocker, he keeps his edge locked down fantastically. Runs to his side of the field have a higher chance of being successful than ones to the other.

As a receiver though, his ability to create holes in coverage, and outrun linebackers has proved absolutely invaluable to the success of the team.  When Davis is on the field, defenses absolutely cannot avoid covering him with a faster defensive back, as he’ll quickly outrun a slower player.  Keeping this in mind, usually means a safety must be assigned to him, or at least to cover him closer than anyone else on his side of the playing field.

His Contemporaries

With all this in mind, can we consider him the best tight end in the NFL?  How does he stack up against the likes of Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, or even Tony Gonzalez? Arguably the only other active players in the discussion of best TE in the NFL over the last three years.  Here’s how they all stack up:

TE’s 2011-2013

Games

Receptions

Yards

Avg

Touchdowns

Jimmy Graham

46

265

3436

13

35

Rob Gronkowski

34

184

2709

14.7

32

Tony Gonzales

47

252

2608

10.3

23

Vernon Davis

46

157

2145

13.8

23

(Stats compiled from NFL.com)

Perhaps not the numbers we expected to see when everything is said and done. Davis doesn’t top any of these categories, but I don’t want to say that you have to take these with a grain of salt, but you do at least have to consider that the three other teams in this comparison are anything but run-first as the 49ers tend to be.  Over the last three seasons, here are the running game offensive rankings for all four contenders’ teams:

 

ATL 2011

SF 2011

NE 2011

NO 2011

Rush Yards/Game

114.6

127.8

110.2

132.9

Rush attempts

453

498

438

431

Avg Yards/Attempt

4

4.1

4

4.9

Rush TDs

14

14

18

16

RushYds Rank

17th

8th

20th

6th

ATL 2012

SF 2012

NE 2012

NO 2012

Rush Yards/Game

87.3

155.7

136.5

98.6

Rush attempts

378

492

523

370

Avg Yards/Attempt

3.7

5.1

4.2

4.3

Rush TDs

12

17

25

10

RushYds Rank

29th

4th

7th

25th

ATL 2013

SF 2013

NE 2013

NO 2013

Rush Yards/Game

78.1

141.2

119.9

91.7

Rush attempts

301

482

427

361

Avg Yards/Attempt

3.9

4.4

4.2

3.8

Rush TDs

11

18

17

8

RushYds Rank

32nd

3rd

12th

25th

(Stats compiled from NFL.com)

None of the other teams over the past three seasons have had as adept a rushing offense as the 49ers have in this span.

In the End?

What does this mean?

Well to my estimation, this means that if you inserted Vernon Davis into one of these offenses, you’d easily see increased production. The man is tough, large, fast, and really good at his job.  He does what is asked of him in every phase of his game, and is always looking to improve his level of play.  Does that make him the best at his position?  It might not, but it does put him in every discussion about it, and puts him near the top.  Enough years like that back to back, and you earn yourself a spot in history.  Don’t believe me? Just look at Tony Gonzalez.

Tags: San Francisco 49ers Vernon Davis