After news broke that Michael Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon, the San Francisco 49ers offense has become the hot topic of the week. The wide receiver situation is far from settled (and probably won’t be resolved for awhile), but one thing is for certain: I am getting more excited for the 2013 fantasy football outlook of Vernon Davis.
The term “freak” is thrown around quite often when people describe players in the National Football League and well, that’s because it takes a special athlete to play in the NFL. Even in a league full of the world’s best athletes, there’s some that are just plain freakier than the others. Without a doubt, Davis is one of those players. Just take a look at his NFL Combine performance and you’ll know why he was drafted 6th overall in 2006:
His 40-yard dash was faster than that of Julio Jones (4.39) and Percy Harvin (4.41). His short shuttle was faster than LeSean McCoy (4.18) and DeSean Jackson (4.19). His bench reps totaled more than Ndamukong Suh (32). His vertical jump was higher than Vincent Jackson (39) and Dez Bryant (38). If you weren’t already aware, I think you get the point by now that Davis is insanely athletic. Granted, he is now 29 years old, but I doubt that he has fallen too far away from those numbers.
Some of you may be thinking, “Well if he’s so talented, then why hasn’t he accomplished more during seven seasons in the NFL?” I think that answer is simple: his surroundings. During his time with the 49ers, the team has averaged a 24th place finish among NFL teams in total passing yards. One can only speculate what Davis would have been able to accomplish if he was catching passes from Tom Brady and Drew Brees. I personally think that if he switched places with either Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, he would be talked about in the same breath as those two in terms of fantasy football value. Let’s get back to the numbers though, which I normally let do most of the talking. After Colin Kaepernick became the starting quarterback in 2012, it wasn’t exactly a boon to Davis’ production. In fact, it was the opposite:
Had his production with Alex Smith carried over throughout the second half, Davis would have finished as the 5th ranked tight end in total fantasy points. Instead, he nosedived into a 15th place finish at the position. That’s not exactly promising for his future success and those are the numbers you should be telling all of your league mates. In the playoffs, the combo fared much better:
Even before the unfortunate injury to Crabtree, I would have expected Davis to rebound from his disappointing 2012 season. With Crabtree’s injury now accounted for, I’m expecting even bigger things from Davis. I’d like to preface the following projections by stating that I think the increased targets will outweigh increased focus on Davis by opposing defenses. In the playoffs, Davis averaged 6.3 targets per game, which would translate to 101 over sixteen games; a number that may have been tough to replicate before the Crabtree injury (even though Davis accounted for 129 in 2009), but now seems entirely within reach. The following table details his potential with varying target totals according to his career production:
In each of the last three seasons, the 124.6 fantasy points that could result from 100 targets would have placed him among the top six tight ends. That’s more than enough to justify his current ADP which is detailed below, but considering Davis averaged 890 receiving yards and 8.7 touchdowns from 2009 through 2011, he could easily surpass those numbers and finish closer to the 136.9 fantasy points projected for a 110 target campaign. That total would have been good for at least TE4 in each of the past three seasons. If everything comes together, Davis’ season could even eclipse all the totals on the above chart.
It takes more than intriguing projections to become a target of mine though. There also needs to be value and as of now, Davis has that as well:
In terms of rankings, I place him in a tier alongside Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten; his current ADP places him a full round after those players. If you want to play it safe, then you can go with the veterans who are ages 37 and 31 respectably. However, of the three, Vernon Davis (age 29) has the biggest upside and the best price tag entering the 2013 fantasy football season.