Davis put up phenomenal numbers for TE at Combine
Will heralded Maryland tight end Vernon Davis be just a consolation prize for the 49ers if they can’t get one of the top-rated defenders they covet with the No. 6 overall pick in the upcoming NFL draft? Or will they just feel fortunate that such a tremendous prospect at the position might fall to them in that slot? One thing’s for sure: The 49ers seem to have a good sense of what a talent such as Davis could bring to the team, not to mention what he could do for their offense.
By sheer tangible numbers alone, Davis is a remarkable prospect, one of the most complete and athletic tight end prospects to come along in a long, long time.
A workout warrior, the 6-foot-3¼, 254-pound Davis bench presses 460 pounds, has a 685-pound squat lift, a 355-pound clean-and-jerk lift and a vertical jump of 42 inches. He also timed 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine – the fastest ever recorded by a tight end.
And ever is a long, long time.
Meanwhile, the 49ers are looking for playmakers everywhere, but particularly at tight end. The team’s personnel guru, Scot McCloughan, is a straightforward evaluator who usually gushes about prospects only when and where it is warranted. McCloughan is gushing about Davis.
“Vernon Davis is so unique from a standpoint (of) being 255 pounds, and as soon as he comes into any organization that he lands at he has the chance to be the fastest guy on the field,” McCloughan said. “For a guy with that much size and that much power, you can move him around and get him to match up with linebackers and even safeties, and you know he is going to win eight of 10 of those matchups. When a tight end can score from anywhere on the field, that is huge.”
Notably, not one tight end scored from anywhere on the field for the 49ers in 2005. They got no touchdown receptions from the position, and a paltry total of only 17 receptions for 137 yards (an 8.1 average) from the combination of Terry Jones, Billy Bajema and Trent Smith.
Those were the three players who manned the position in the absence of Eric Johnson, who missed the entire 2005 season with a foot injury. When he was healthy in 2004, Johnson provided the 49ers with a legitimate receiving threat at the position, setting a team record for tight ends with 82 receptions for 825 yards .
Johnson, a receiver in college at Yale, reached his upside potential as a seventh-round draft pick who bulked up to switch positions in the NFL. But the sky is the limit with Davis, and it appears the 49ers are not only seriously considering taking him with their first pick, but also know what to do with him if they do land the Maryland product.
When asked if it would be worth it to pick a tight end with such a high selection in the draft, 49ers coach Mike Nolan didn’t hesitate.
“Yes, depending how you use him,” Nolan responded. “It’s all on how you use the guy. If you get him the ball, yes. If all you do is block with him, then I would say no. In that position, I would say you have to do both. The league has shown how valuable a good tight end is. (Tony) Gonzalez is so critical in the success of Kansas City’s offense. They’re always one, two or three in the league. But they use him correctly. They split him out and get him on people like that. I believe Vernon Davis would do a lot of the same things. Wherever he goes, I think people will utilize him the same way. If they don’t, then it’s a misuse of funds, so to speak.”
Wherever he goes. Nolan certainly isn’t telling if that place will be San Francisco, but Norv Turner – the team’s new offensive coordinator – has a solid track record of working the tight end effectively into the attack.
And it’s no secret that the 49ers’ weak passing game – and weak corps of wide receivers, for that matter – could use some help with a big, fast tight end streaking across the middle to draw interest from linebackers and secondary defenders.
“I’ll tell you from a defensive standpoint, because I got into this discussion with Brian Billick when I was (in Baltimore),” said Nolan, who was Baltimore’s defensive coordinator before he joined the 49ers. “One time, he was looking hard for a wide receiver and we had (tight end) Todd Heap on the team and we didn’t have a wide receiver. We got into a conversation about him playing that wide receiver on the same side as Todd Heap. The reason I’m saying this, is that if the tight end is that good, then you’d like to have at least one guy on the other side of the formation of that wide receiver because now you’re using the whole field. So a tight end is valuable, but if you have two go-to players, from a scheme standpoint that hurts the defense if you have them on opposite sides of the field. You don’t want all your good players on the same side of the formation or the field, because defending that is a lot easier.”
But Davis – who told scout.com recently that he wants to “revolutionize the tight end position” and “be remembered as someone who changed the way people think about tight ends and what they can do” while also becoming “the next big thing in the NFL” – hardly is a top prospect only because of his receiving ability.
He’s the total package.
“The thing that is so impressive is his play speed, (but) he has so much upside as a blocker,” McCloughan said. “With his flexibility in his hips and the power he has, (he can) be an exceptional blocker on our level. He can be a guy that not only can change a game by running around making plays and catching the ball and running, but also by being a blocker, and being one of the impact blockers at the tight end position.”
So if Davis is staring at the 49ers when they go on the clock at No. 6 on Saturday morning, don’t expect them to blink. They have seen the future at tight end while scouting the elite prospects, and Davis just might be it.