When it comes to physical attributes, no other tight end is more naturally gifted than 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.
Back at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2006, Davis ran a sub-4.4 forty, posted a 42-inch vertical jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 33 times as a prospect out of the University of Maryland.
In his first three NFL seasons, his production was much less than his potential would otherwise have suggested.
Davis had a breakout season in 2009, with 78 receptions for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns, but since then his yardage and touchdown totals have declined each season. He finished eighth in receptions (67) and ninth in yards (792) among tight ends last year.
Before Week 17 Davis had a total of six 100-yard games in his career (87 games).
That said, Davis finished the 2011 season strong. In his final three games of the year including the postseason, Davis had three consecutive 100-yard games. During that span, Davis had a total of 18 receptions, for 410 yards and four touchdowns.
Are the last three games a sign that he takes his production to the next level going forward?
The upside is certainly there, but there was only one team in the league that threw it less than the 49ers last year, and that was the Tim Tebow-led Broncos. Even pass-unhappy teams like the Jaguars (469 pass attempts) threw it more often than the 'Niners (451).
Unless the 49ers suddenly start to air it out, there will be roughly the same number of pass attempts to go around but more players competing for those targets. This offseason, the 49ers have added Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins, etc., through either free agency or the draft.
Last year, Davis ranked 10th among tight ends in targets (95), which was tied for 54th overall with Eric Decker and Torrey Smith.
(Strength of) Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to tight ends last year by all of the 49ers' opponents this year, Davis and 49ers tight ends have one of the 12 most difficult schedules from a fantasy perspective.
In addition only seven teams have less favorable schedules in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16).
Davis should bounce back from last year's three-year lows, but I don't expect him to exceed his previous career highs, set in 2009. While he clearly has the talent to do so, there are more mouths to feed on the 49ers offense and not enough opportunities to go around.
That said, Davis is a solid TE1 and has the upside to be the third best fantasy option at tight end this year.
After Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, Davis is worthy as being the third tight end selected in dynasty startup leagues. At a minimum he should be a top-five selection.
Unlike guys like Jason Witten and Antonio Gates, who are in their early 30s, Davis apparently has his best football in front of him.
Projection: (Receiving) 70 Receptions, 905 Yards, 8 TDs; (Rushing) 5 Yards
Also, check out: