June is an interesting time in the NFL. And by that, I mean that anything remotely interesting is suddenly really, really, mind-blowingly interesting, because finding a football subject to talk about during that lonely month is a true sport.
This is why you’re forgiven if at that point you bellowed out of resounding “meh” upon hearing that at the 49ers minicamp, Vernon Davis was practicing almost exclusively with the wide receivers. Though he’s versatile like any modern-day tight end and can line up in the slot and sometimes even out wide, Davis is still a tight end by trade. But with the stinging absence of Michael Crabtree for much of the season (torn Achillies), someone has to become Colin Kaepernick’s new cozy security blanket.
That extended time at a different position earlier in the offseason hinted strongly that Davis would be the guy. But hey, maybe that was just a June experiment, because if there’s a time to conduct such a Frankenstein feat, it’s during the lazy days of June.
It’s late July now, and Davis is still practicing with the wide receivers.
Yep, it wasn’t just an isolated June fling, and Davis has continued to get reps at wide receiver. Head coach Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t elaborate much on Davis’ potential role as a wideout, mostly because he’s Jim Harbaugh and he does not seek to entertain jive turkey gobblers. However, here’s what Davis said to The Associated Press (via Rotoworld):
“I’m willing to step up and do whatever they ask me to do. They’ve been having me line up at wide receiver, pretty much all over the place. It’s a good thing that I get the opportunity to work with those guys because it not only helps me at the wide receiver position, it also helps me at the tight end position. My feet get quicker, my route-running is better.”
The emphasis there is mine, and the awesomeness is Davis’.
There’s a domino effort of sorts that should lead to more targets for Davis following Crabtree’s injury. Mario Manningham is the best option to be a temporary Crabtree imitator and a deep option, but he’s still recovering from an injury of his own (ACL and PCL surgery), and he remains restricted to individual drills. His odds of being ready for opening week reside somewhere between slim and none, and beyond him then the Niners’ wide receiver corps is thin. Anquan Boldin is much better suited to be a banger up the middle on intermediate routes, as speed burning isn’t his game anymore. Then there’s A.J. Jenkins and Richardo Lockette, who are both high on potential but exceedingly low on experience.
So you see where this is headed…still. Temporarily until Manningham returns, Davis should see a significant rise in targets, which makes his situation an intriguing/befuddling one for fantasy purposes.
With Aaron Hernandez busy doing prison push-ups, Dennis Pitta done for the year, and Rob Gronkowski possibly out for the first six weeks, tight end is becoming increasingly thin at the top. You’re then faced with two options: investing in security and sanity, and spending on someone like Davis whose ADP is surely about to rise due to position scarcity, or wait, and stream weekly at the position.
I often prefer door No. 2, since if you can’t get Davis or Jimmy Graham or Jason Witten, the separation among the rest barely exists. But there’s inherently a gambling element to streaming, which means luck is also partly determining your fate. You can trust Davis (or Graham or Witten) even more now with this likely increase in targets and usage, and if you’re drafting soon, his sixth-round price doesn’t seem too painful.