Why Nate Davis Should Be in the Mix of the 49ers' QB Battle

S LCorrespondent IMay 12, 2009

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 01:  Quarterback Nate Davis #7 of the San Francisco 49ers throws the ball during the 49ers Minicamp at their training facilities on May 1, 2009 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Even though this offseason's quarterback battle will mainly be between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill, the quarterback that could benefit most from this is Nate Davis.

The rookie quarterback out of Ball State was drafted in the fifth round and could be projected as the team's third string quarterback. He even could end up as the fourth stringer behind veteran Damon Huard.

But how can he benefit from a battle that doesn't even involve him?

Now, the 49ers would be fools not to name Shaun Hill their starter for the 2009 season. Everything that has gone right for Hill has gone accordingly, and he should be rewarded with the starting role. With an impressive 7-2 record as a starter, Hill does give the 49ers the best shot to win.

Let's say that Hill does get the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Who will be No. 2? You would think Alex Smith would take that spot, but Davis could be a solid challenger to Smith.

Smith is the pet project of the Mike Nolan era. With that No. 1 overall pick status looming over Smith, the "bust" word starts to creep closer and closer around 49ers camp.

The 49ers surprised some by restructuring Smith's contract to keep him around, but if he does not perform well, he should not be rewarded with the No. 2 spot. If Davis does play better, Smith's career in San Francisco might as well be over.

Smith says that he has fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery and is ready to handle the upcoming battle for the starting job. But with a lot of uncertainty behind Smith, Davis would benefit from the battle for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.

Davis has been criticized for having an unorthodox way of gripping the football, but that doesn't take away from his ability to throw the ball deep and accurately. In fact, those are the skills that I have yet to see from Smith at the pro level.

Davis looks to have more upside (and more potential) at this point than Smith does. If Davis outperforms Smith this offseason, the 49ers should not hold on to Smith as the future of the franchise. They need to let it go and move on.

Dyslexia, the learning disability that Davis has, should not be a problem for Davis as he learns the playbook. He has said that he is a great visual learner, and as long as he is able to visualize the play and picture it, he will be just fine on the field.

As Davis continues to battle for a position on the roster, he might just be good enough to make it to No. 2. He probably won't win the top spot, but he could very well set himself up for a bright future if he can show his goods in training camp.

Over recent years, backup quarterbacks have excelled when the team's starter is unable to perform. In recent memory, we can recall a Tony Romo or a Matt Cassel quietly taking notes as a backup. When their time came, they never looked back.