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One of the big perks to being part of the SB Nation network is that we have access to hundreds of other fantastic blogs. Now that the draft has finished, I thought it would be a good idea to try and take advantage of the wealth of information as we try to learn more about each of our new 49ers. We might as well start at the top with offensive tackle Anthony Davis.
In a bit of excellent timing, approximately two weeks ago SB Nation added a Rutgers blog called On the Banks. As soon as the 49ers landed Davis, I emailed Jon over at On the Banks to get his thoughts on Davis. As I always say, who better to speak with than a person who watched Davis play for the last three seasons? If you get a chance, On the Banks had a few initial thoughts on the pick on draft day, and then wrapped up the draft with some more links. Here's what Jon had to say about Davis:
He was too good to keep off the field despite his rawness as a true freshman. Davis took over at right guard midway through the year and was immediately successful, overpowering his opponents through sheer brute force.
The next year, he lost a bunch of weight over the winter and answered all skepticism over his ability to play left tackle by seizing the job during spring practice. There was an incident over the summer that led to Davis and receiver Kenny Britt being suspended a couple games into the season, against the cupcake Norfolk St. His pass protection was absolutely stellar in 2008; I can only think of one mishap, where he didn't pick up a stunting end against South Florida. His run blocking was shaky earlier in the year, but so were the rest of the offensive line in that respect (it was a young and inexperienced group). The running backs mostly ran behind Davis, and the unit gelled and started to play very well down the stretch.
So far, so good. Anthony Davis was not only living up to expectations, he was shattering them when taking into account how ahead of the curve he was. A year ago, he looked like the next great NFL left tackle as 19-year old sophomore who never redshirted.
Jon's write-up continues after the jump...
What happened in 2009 is that Davis had a miserable game in pass protection in the opener against Cincinnati, and then his play was wildly inconsistent week to week through most of the year. He'd beat up the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, George Selvie, and Greg Romeus (probably a first rounder next year), and then had difficulty blocking a freshman from UConn. Was he just going through the motions with a certain NFL paycheck in sight? The entire Rutgers OL did fall off a cliff in all respects, although it was clear that Davis was still by far the best lineman. If there's a saving grace for him on the year, he finally got his act together later in the season.
I understand why the 49ers wanted Anthony Davis in terms of talent and need on their line. Despite his size, he doesn't really fit the bill if you're looking for a road grading tackle. He absolutely has left tackle feet and quickness, and even though San Francisco has Joe Staley, it's still hard to fathom Anthony not settling in on that side eventually. Rutgers runs a zone blocking scheme that requires a lot in terms of athleticism and reading defenses. I remember those lines that Mike Solari had in Kansas City, so it's easy to envision Davis filling out and adding some more power. Still think that the 49ers went for the best combination of need and position though, and Mike Iupati is the guy they're adding specifically to open holes for Frank Gore, not Davis.
He doesn't seem at all like a guy who's going to go out and get into trouble. Any character concerns would have more to do with his aloof attitude and the perception that he was dogging it last year. Any weight concerns are overrated though. He did come in very heavy, but dropped most of that weight quickly. There was a brief demotion to the second team during preseason camp last fall, although the Rutgers head coach that was just because an injury from a pickup basketball game kept him from working out. Then he struggled at the Combine and missed his first Pro Day, although supposedly rebounded in his workouts a few weeks later.
All of that risk comes with corresponding reward. Anthony had a huge vertical jump at the Combine (which supposedly measures explosiveness), and he's a sight to behold watching when he gets momentum moving downfield. Have you seen the quote about dunking from the free throw line yet? There's not even remotely a question at all about his natural gifts, and if the gamble pays off, San Francisco just nabbed a ten-year starter and the best tackle in the draft.
There are some very real concerns with taking a player high who doesn't always give consistent effort. My biggest fear on Thursday was that he'd go to the Oakland Raiders, and wither into a near-certain bust. All of that talent seems wholly dependent on landing into a good situation. If he lands with a stable organization that'll provide him with a good coaching staff and supporting cast, he'll do very well and this will end up being a terrific pick. That seems to be the general buzz right now around the 49ers, so I'm optimistic, although you and your readers surely have a better take on that than I do. Godspeed Mike Solari and Mike Singletary.
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