How Vernon Davis Stacks Up Against the All-Time Greatest TE's
In an article by Kevin Jones of WUSA-TV 9 in Washington, Davis spoke at a high school in the area:
In the final portion of Davis' motivational speech, the San Francisco 49er talked about never giving up on your aspirations. Davis even dropped some of his own.
"I will be the best tight end to ever play this game. I have a vision," echoed Davis to a thunderous applause.
That's a rather bold statement coming from Davis who is one of the best today, but has a lot of work ahead of him before getting into the best ever discussion. In 49ers' history Davis isn't the best as that belongs to Dwight Clark.
Let's take a look at the top 10 tight ends in NFL history and see where Davis could potentially finish if his career continues to impress.
1. John Mackey: Baltimore Colts
The NFL's first and most complete tight end of all-time, John Mackey possessed the rare combination of size, speed, power and route-running reliability during his era. In a league that relied heavily on the run and blocking tight ends, Mackey was as fierce of a blocker as he was a consistently reliable receiver.
The man would get impressive yards after the catch and it always took multiple defenders to bring him down.
2. Shannon Sharpe: Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens
A three-time Super Bowl champion, Shannon Sharpe finished his career with over 10,000 receiving yards that went with 815 receptions and 62 touchdowns.
Easily the best tight end of his era, Sharpe was impossible to cover one-on-one and he was a better blocker than given credit for. In 1998, Sharpe helped the Broncos' offensive line pave way for Terrell Davis to gain over 2,000 rushing yards en route to a second consecutive Vince Lombardi Trophy.
3. Mike Ditka: Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys
"Iron" Mike Ditka is the exact definition of a tight end. He played tough, hard-nosed football his entire career and was a rarity like Mackey as a complete tight end during his era.
A dominant blocker, Ditka also was a great receiver. Arguably the best tight end in terms of yards-after-the-catch, Ditka averaged 13.6 yards per reception and scored 43 touchdowns.
4. Tony Gonzalez: Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons
One of the last great complete players at his position, Tony Gonzalez is obviously well known for his talent as a receiving tight end.
A 12-time Pro Bowl selection (10 consecutive from 1999-2008), Gonzalez has also earned nine All-Pro selections and is arguably a better blocker than receiver. With 95 touchdowns to date, the man clearly knows how to find the end zone.
5. Dave Casper: Oakland Raiders, Houston Oilers
Definitely more known as a blocker, Dave Casper was part of a run-first offense in Oakland that made the Raiders' annual AFC title contenders during the 1970s.
Still, Casper also accounted for 52 touchdowns and averaged 13.8 yards per catch.
6. Kellen Winslow Sr.: San Diego Chargers
In an offense that changed the game forever, Kellen Winslow Sr. was quarterback Dan Fouts' go-to man in "Air Coryell."
The first tight end used primarily as a receiver, Winslow was a great athlete who could make plays all over the field. He was even used on the field-goal block team, which worked to the Chargers' advantage.
7. Ozzie Newsome: Cleveland Browns
The main weapon in the Cleveland offense from 1978-1990, Ozzie Newsome caught 662 passes and scored 47 touchdowns for the Browns.
Despite being a receiver-first tight end, Newsome was a reliable blocker that could take on linebackers and defensive backs one-on-one. It's no secret Cleveland had a consistent rushing attack with the likes of Kevin Mack, Mike Pruitt and Earnest Byner.
8. Mark Bavaro: New York Giants
One of the most underrated tight ends of all time, Mark Bavaro goes drastically overlooked because of his quiet demeanor. If anything though, Bavaro's play was that of a quiet riot where he was arguably the best blocking tight end to put the pads on.
He also was a solid receiving end with an average of 13.5 yards per catch and 39 touchdowns. Next to Mackey and Ditka, Bavaro was just as tough to tackle (if not tougher) and even took the great Ronnie Lott for a ride.
9. Todd Christensen: Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
A rather unknown great tight end during his era, Todd Christensen had a stretch from 1983-1986 where he averaged 87 catches, 1,098 yards and scored 33 touchdowns. He was a quick tight end that knew how to block and get downfield to extend running lanes for Marcus Allen.
Still, Christensen goes under the radar since he played during the era of Kellen Winslow and Ozzie Newsome. Not to mention, he was the next tight end after Dave Casper for the Silver and Black.
10. Antonio Gates: San Diego Chargers
Following in the footsteps of Winslow, Antonio Gates is a receiving tight end first and a blocker second. However, Gates' consistent production deserves recognition as he has averaged 924 yards and 71 receptions the past eight years.
We also have to remember that Gates didn't play college football. A basketball standout at Kent State, Gates transitioned his rebounding skills into making plays all over the football field. A natural athlete, if he continues to develop as a blocker, Gates can move up this list quite a bit.
Will Vernon Davis finish his career as one of the NFL's Top 10 TEs ever?
Vernon Davis may not be in the top 10, but considering that he's only 28-years-old, there is a lot of time left to polish off his game.
A 2009 Pro Bowl selection, Davis put on a show during the 2011 NFC playoffs with 292 yards on 10 receptions including four touchdowns (most notable "The Catch III").
The 49ers also remain a run-oriented offense with Frank Gore, Brandon Jacobs and rookie LaMichael James. So, it's expected that Vernon will become a more dominant blocker and elite receiving tight end.
Provided that he ups the receptions, yards-per-catch and touchdown numbers he can potentially get to No. 8 on the list. And if Davis reaches his full potential as a blocker, then up to No. 5 is possible. All this being said, Davis just has to get it done and take full advantage of his opportunities moving forward.
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