Fooch's Update: Vernon's 45-spot jump is the biggest of returning players thus far. That means Frank Gore could conceivably still make an appearance with a higher jump as the list rolls on.
Wednesday night, the NFL Network continued their series of the Top 100 players in 2012 by ranking players No. 41-50. 49ers tight end Vernon Davis made his appearance on the list, slotting in at No. 43. This comes a year after ranking 88, and his 45 spot jump is the biggest among returning players on the list. Davis chatted with NFL Network about his position in the rankings.
While the entire offense should benefit from a full offseason combined with some potentially quality additions, Vernon Davis could be one guy who benefits as much as anybody. Shortly before the playoffs, Davis spoke about how much he'd struggled learning the offense, and the frustration he'd had because of that. By the end of the season though, Davis seemed to lock himself into a zone. Over the final three regular season games he hauled in 18 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown. Then the playoffs arrived and he blew up, finishing the two games with 10 catches for 292 yards and four touchdowns.
While he won't put together those kinds of numbers week in and week out, he is putting himself into position to become a more effective weapon all season long. The additions of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, coupled with the continued growth of Michael Crabtree and further development of the ground game could provide the team with the kind of firepower to open things up across the board. There's a lot of work to be done before that actually occurs, but the situation is ripe for some huge seasons.
It is also worth noting that the 49ers now have three players remaining in the Top 100 list. Thus far we've had Vernon Davis, Joe Staley, Carlos Rogers and NaVorro Bowman make the list. Justin Smith and Patrick Willis would seem like obvious choices for two of the three spots. Beyond that, it could come down to a battle between safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. Whitner seemed to have the more effective year in 2011, but Goldson is a bit more high profile.
On the offensive side of the ball, Frank Gore could conceivably make an appearance, but he would be making a bigger climb than Vernon Davis, and I thought they said Davis had the biggest climb in the rankings.
Beyond those options, I'm not quite sure who else we can expect. Ahmad Brooks had a strong season, but it was his first big season and I suspect he would be overlooked in rankings like this. The same holds true for Ray McDonald. Any other ideas?