Vance McDonald may become a fantasy starter sooner than many anticipated.
Vernon Davis left during the fourth quarter of the San Francisco 49ers’ Week 2 loss in Seattle after injuring his hamstring, per the team’s Twitter account:
Vernon Davis (hamstring) is out for the rest of the game. #SFvsSEA— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) September 16, 2013
CSN San Francisco’s Matt Maiocco labeled the injury a strain, but it’s unclear how severe the veteran’s injury is and how much time he will miss as a result.
Hamstring injuries can be devastating and lingering ailments for professional athletes. The older you get, the worse they can become. At 29, Davis is at risk of being sidelined for a significant amount of time, especially if he’s brought back too soon.
With Davis on the field, McDonald was limited in the 49ers’ game plan. Although playing in all of the team’s two-tight end sets, the rookie received just two targets from quarterback Colin Kaepernick. One of those, a 19-yard reception, came after Davis’ exit in the fourth quarter.
McDonald has the ideal size—6’4”, 267 pounds and long arms—and strength to be a competent run-blocker and exploit mismatches against linebackers. His experience as a wide receiver at Rice will be big for him if he’s given a larger role while the team awaits Davis’ return.
During the NFL Scouting Combine, he impressed with the top bench performance among tight ends and also clocked in with a quick 4.69-second 40-yard dash time.
He has had problems with drops in the past, so that’s something that should be considered. But once he gets the ball in his hands, McDonald has the power and directness to pick up yards after the catch.
Long term, this is Davis’ job. With him healthy and on the field, it doesn’t look like there is much upside to owning McDonald as of now. But in the meantime, the rookie provides an interesting option for Davis owners and those who aren’t seeing production out of their tight ends.
If you’re in a pinch in Week 3, it might not be a bad idea to roll with McDonald in your lineup. The 49ers face an Indianapolis Colts team that was torched by Charles Clay of the Miami Dolphins for over 100 yards and a score in Week 2.
The Niners also have a shortage of playmakers offensively, making McDonald a prime candidate to break out this week and in any games Davis misses. If he does have a good stretch, Kaepernick may look in his direction more even after Davis gets back on the field.
Continue to monitor the situation closely throughout the week, but don’t pass up the opportunity to have a top performer because of the uncertainty surrounding the situation.
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