We have spent much of the last two months chattering about the 49ers need for wide receivers. The team added Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and these two additions prompted plenty more discussion about whether one of them could develop into a big game-breaking threat, or if the 49ers would need to bring in another guy like Stephen Hill via the draft.
If a guy like Stephen Hill is sitting at the 30th pick (looking more and more unlikely) it would certainly be incredibly tempting to grab him. The 49ers do not have a ton of long term answers at the wide receiver position, so adding a skill position player like that could be an excellent long-term decision.
At the same time, even if Hill (or Fleener if you prefer) is not available when the 49ers pick, the door is not closed on having a game-breaking threat. In a matter of a couple months, it has become increasingly easy to overlook the thoroughly dominant performances we saw from tight end Vernon Davis in the 2012 postseason. While the passing game struggled in many respects, Davis had a pair of monster performances, hauling in 292 receiving yards and four touchdowns in two games.
Two performances do not a number one receiver make, but we know how athletic Vernon Davis can be. He has a rare combination of size, speed, power and general toughness, all of which allow him to take over games in a receiving capacity. One drawback is one of his biggest strengths. Davis has developed into a strong blocker for the 49ers, and with the offensive line inconsistencies, he has had to stay back blocking for the passing game. He gets out for passes, but not nearly as frequently as he might otherwise be able to with stronger pass blocking.
If the 49ers can find ways to shore up the offensive line and get some more consistent pass blocking from the unit, what is to stop Vernon Davis from developing into the number one receiver in the 49ers offense? He is listed as a tight end, but we know he is so much more than that. The little jump at times can be a pain, and he has brain farts from time to time, but he would seem to have plenty of the needed skills to be the team's biggest threat.
The 49ers do still need some additional depth considerations (Marvin Jones remains my draft crush), but they do not need to feel forced into making a reach early on at the wide receiver position. The 49ers have plenty of question marks as a big-play threat offense, but the 49ers have the players in place to further develop that aspect of the offense. Davis has shown the needed physicality to go over the middle, while also being able to gain needed separation on deep routes.
Each wide receiver brings specific skills that can help open the field up for the rest of the receivers. Vernon Davis does not represent a traditional "number one, big play receiver", but it seems reasonable to hope for big things from Vernon. Is it a reasonable expectation for Davis to emerge as the number one guy? Or maybe the offense really isn't built to feature a specific number one receiver and this is all just a superfluous exercise. What do you think?