In fantasy football rankings, Vernon Davis is relatively new to the top of tight end rankings.
The usual suspects are Antonio Gates and Dallas Clark, with guys like Jason Witten somewhere in the picture.
After a breakout 2009 campaign, this is Davis' year to outclass them all.
Early in 2009, Davis was well on his way to becoming a bust, considering his lofty position at sixth overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. In terms of fantasy football, Davis was lucky to even garner a spot in the entire draft.
But then a funny thing happened: Fellow top draft pick Alex Smith was given second life at quarterback, and it all finally came together for Davis.
He caught 10 touchdowns in the final 11 games and amassed a total of 13 on the season, tying Gates' single season record for a tight end. Davis totaled 965 yards on 78 catches.
After that breakout season, no one is sleeping on Davis, but no one is ready to hand him the fantasy torch for best tight end yet, either. If you don't, that may be a mistake.
Davis and Smith already have one of the best rapports in the NFL, as Davis was only one of three tight ends with 130 targets last season (Tony Gonzalez with 136 and Clark with 132 led all tight ends). The 49ers handed Smith the keys to the offense for 2010, so that bond figures to only grow stronger.
Who will be this year's best fantasy tight end?
You also have to consider that Michael Crabtree came along right about the time Davis hit his stride, so with Crabtree fully engaged in the offense this season, he will only help open the middle for Davis.
If you knew going into this season that Davis would give you last season's numbers over a full 16-game schedule, he probably wouldn't be the first tight end off the board, but you would gladly take him on your team in a heartbeat. This season, those numbers should only expand with an entire season of the fully engaged Davis.
Davis also will have a full season to work with Smith and Crabtree in a quest to become fantasy football's best tight end.
It won't be easy to overtake Gates and Clark for this year's tight end crown, but in terms of consistency, Davis already has the pair beat, based on last year's fantasy numbers.
If you look at the trio's stats on a week-by-week basis, Clark and Gates had some of the best tight end performances, but Davis had more high-scoring weeks. This was helped by Davis scoring at least one touchdown in 10 different weeks, compared with seven for Clark and six for Gates.
Here is a look, going by standard scoring of one point per 10 yards receiving and six points per receiving touchdown, at each of the three's weekly fantasy scores from highest to lowest.
Gates Clark Davis
24 24 27
23 22 21
16 21 17
13 12 16
10 12 14
9 11 12
8 10 10
7 9 10
7 8 9
7 7 8
7 6 7
6 6 5
6 5 5
5 5 4
4 3 3
4 2 1
Average 9.75 10.2 10.6
As you can see, Davis compares quite well in terms of consistently high production and average weekly total (if you play in PPR, take into consideration that Clark totaled 100 receptions in 2009, compared with 79 for Gates and 78 for Davis).
The biggest knock on Davis would be the few duds he put up that probably killed his owners for those particular weeks. With the Smith-Davis connection going for an entire season, the chances of that happening should be slimmer.
You can't go wrong if you manage to land any one of these guys, but this might be the season to take a chance on selecting Vernon Davis as the first tight end off the board.