Vernon Davis: Where Will His Career Take Him?

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 12: Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers runs after a catch as Lawyer Milloy #36 of the Seattle Seahawks defends during an NFL game at Candlestick Park on December 12 2010 in San Francisco California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

I'm not sure when, but at some point Football Outsiders added player pages that provide traditional and advanced stats, as well as comparisons to past players. It's a premium option so you have to pay the premium fee for it, which is currently $40 for one year. I definitely think their information is worth investing in but we'll also provide some snippets to whet your whistle in the meantime.

When I came across the player pages I decided to start researching some of our favorite 49ers. I checked out Vernon Davis given his strong performances the last two seasons to see what FO had to say. Davis flashed a ton of potential his first three seasons, but the last two have been when he's really stepped up his overall game. Over the last two seasons, Davis has been a big time blocker while also putting up 134 catches, 1,879 yards, and 20 touchdowns. All this with a rotation of quarterbacks, none of whom have been anything special to date.

In their player pages, FO provides similarity scores for the player based on his most recent season, his last two seasons, and his last three seasons. FO acknowledges there are weaknesses in the similarity scores but it's one option for making comparisons about players.

In looking over their similarity scores, here are FO's rundown of the ten most similar historical two-year stretches as compared to Vernon Davis from 2009-2010:

Most Similar Players for 2009-2010
Rank Player Year Sim
1 Antonio Gates 2005-2006 909
2 Antonio Gates 2006-2007 900
3 Tony Gonzalez 2000-2001 885
4 Shannon Sharpe 1993-1994 884
5 Ben Coates 1994-1995 880
6 Tony Gonzalez 2001-2002 870
7 Steve Jordan 1985-1986 868
8 Dan Ross 1981-1982 866
9 Tony Gonzalez 2002-2003 853
10 Ozzie Newsome 1981-1982 848


Now I'm obviously cherry-picking the seasons since 2009 and 2010 were his two best seasons. If you look at three-year comparisons for Davis in 2008-2010, former Vikings tight end Steve Jordan is the most similar.

The reason I chose the two-year comparison is that I have to think Davis is trending upwards for his career. I don't know if he'll have another 13 touchdown season, but I think 1,000+ yards is definitely within the realm of possibility in a remotely competent offense. Throw in the fact that the Jim Harbaugh/Greg Roman offense could prove to be a bit more tight end-friendly and it's entirely possible Davis could have a career year in 2011. The lockout could cramp that potential a bit, but the future would appear to be bright for Vernon Davis moving forward.

I'm curious though, what kind of long term career people think Vernon Davis might produce if he stays healthy. The names on that top ten include several Hall of Fame tight ends. I don't know if Davis will end up as a Hall-of-Famer, but if he keeps things up, possibly a retired jersey or membership in the 49ers Hall of Fame? The sky would appear to be the limit for him at this point.

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