The 2006 NFL Draft, like every professional sports draft, had its share of flops. Names like Vince Young (No. 3), Michael Huff (No. 7), Matt Leinart (No. 10), Tye Hill (No. 15) and Bobby Carpenter (No. 18) come to mind. But none perhaps is a bigger bust than San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis, who was taken sixth overall.
Viewed as a physical marvel and can’t miss prospect, Davis oozes athleticism.
At the 2006 Scouting Combine, he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, a time faster than most wide receivers and running backs. He led all tight ends with 33 bench press reps at 225 lbs., a broad jump of 10 feet, 8 inches and a 42-inch vertical leap.
At the University of Maryland, he set positional strength records by bench pressing 465 lbs., power-cleaning 355 lbs., and squatting 685 lbs. He finished his time in College Park with 1,371 yards on 83 receptions for an average of 16.5 yards a catch. Davis’ 16.5-yard average is the best of any tight end ever taken in the first round. Better than the likes of Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark and Kellen Winslow. It seemed as if he was destined to redefine the position.
However, his Wonderlic score of 8 begs the question if he can accurately define much of anything. (The average score for a tight end is 22).
Davis’ time in San Francisco has been highlighted by disappointments, fights with teammates and pissing off new head coach Mike Singletary.
Last week, Davis managed to sandwich all three into one incident.
Less than a fortnight ago, Davis told Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News that he was done with fighting.
“I agree with (Singletary). I don’t think there should be fighting. We don’t have time for that. We need to move on and keep things moving and try to win games.
“That’s behind me, but the one thing I can’t stop doing is being competitive. That’s just who I am. I’m going to do my best not to lose.”
Yeah, about that…
During Saturday’s practice, Davis got in a fight with linebacker Marquis Harris and Singletary punished the entire team, making players run 12 sideline-to-sideline sprints.
Running back Frank Gore was none to pleased.
“It’s his fourth year now. Now it’s time,” Gore said of Davis. “I wasn’t mad about having to run gassers. I just feel like it’s his fourth year now, and I told him it shouldn’t be him now. Everybody makes mistakes but it shouldn’t be him. OK, a rookie? I accept that.”
Gore said he told Davis on Sunday, “It’s time to be a man and try to do everything right. There are younger guys who probably look up to you on the team.”
While I haven’t been able to find any footage of Saturday’s bust-up, it just makes me want to re-watch Davis’ 2008 tussle with teammate Parys Haralson. I doubt Davis would brush Singletary aside like he did former Niners coach Mike Nolan.
Davis hasn’t come close to meeting the expectations of being the next great 49ers’ tight end. Dwight Clark? Brent Jones? Shit, Yale grad Eric Johnson had a better run of it than Davis has.
Owen Daniels, the 98th player drafted the same year Davis was, has run laps around a player taken 92 slots higher than him. And Daniels was recruited to Wisconsin as a quarterback.
2006 - 20 receptions, 265 yards, 3 TDs
2007 – 52 receptions, 509 yards, 4 TDs
2008 – 31 receptions, 358 yards, 2 TDs
Totals – 103 receptions, 1,132 yards, 9 TDs
2006 – 34 receptions, 352 yards, 5 TDs
2007 – 63 receptions, 768 yards, 3 TDs
2008 – 70 receptions, 862 yards, 2 TDs
Totals – 167 receptions, 1,982 yards, 10 TDs
Heck, Davis isn’t even the best tight end in the Bay Area. Oakland’s third-year tight end Zach Miller, taken 38th overall in 2007, has three fewer career catches and 90 more yards in a full season less than Davis (Miller’s numbers: 100 catches for 1,222 yards).
Last season, Davis was frustrated that he was used mainly as a blocker rather than receiver. To his credit, his blocking was decent and he was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
Gone is wide receiver-mad Mike Martz. In is a new offensive coordinator in former Chiefs OC Jimmy Raye, who people say is a fan of tight ends. Though it helps when your tight end is Tony Gonzalez. Dan Brown writes that hopes still remain high for Davis, but the staff and fans are cautiously optimistic.
“Davis averaged a mere 22.4 receiving yards per game last season. Touted as a breakaway threat because of his 4.38 speed, he has delivered just 15 career catches of 20 yards or more. (Cowboys tight end Jason Witten had 14 such catches last year alone.)
“Then again, it’s tough to say how much to pin solely on Davis. Rotating offensive coordinators, upheaval at quarterback and an overall lack of playmakers have conspired to make Davis’ learning curve steeper than the Matterhorn.”
And we touched earlier on Davis’ (in)ability to learn.
Coming out of college, Davis was featured in a number of Under Armour commercials intimidatingly uttering, “Click, clack.”
Hmm, click, clack?
These days it’s more like tick tock.
And the 49ers are losing patience.
And I can’t leave you without Singletary’s late season rant after he benched Davis and told him to hit the showers after a 15-yard penalty on a 7-yard reception.
“Can’t do it. Won’t do it.”