Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but Fooch is a crazy person who manages this blog with no rhyme or reason and it's worked so far. Who am I to argue? This here is the first one of these posts this year.
San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis shouldn't be a mystery to anybody who has been following the team for awhile, but at the same time, it's extremely difficult to predict what kind of player he's going to be next season.
A notable athletic freak before being an athletic freak was the "in" thing for the tight end position, Davis has at times been incredibly disappointing and intensely exciting. Fortunately, in recent years it's been more of the latter and less of the former, with many of his struggles easily attributed to shoddy quarterback play or downright offensive offensive play-calling.
Say what you want about his holdout last season, but I'm all for athletes doing whatever they can to be compensated for what they bring to the table. I had my phone poking jokes about his obsession with his "brand" and have my own opinions as to his value as it pertains to the rest of the league, but let's dispel any notion that these guys "owe" us anything, shall we?
But we're getting off track. What's important right now is that Davis put together some solid seasons between 2009 and 2013, but had an absolutely terrible season last year, catching just 26 of the 50 passes thrown his way for 245 yards and two touchdowns. More than him simply being limited by the injuries he most-certainly were dealing with him, I noticed Davis doing many of the same things he did earlier in his career that I'd hoped he'd never regress to.
He would leap for passes that were thrown perfectly, he would refuse to stretch out for passes that were not, and he had a bad case of the dropsies (because of the first thing). You can point to his injuries as an excuse for him getting beat more and more by linebackers and you can point to his injuries to explain his regression as a blocker, but you can't tell me that catching passes with his stomach had anything to do with injuries sustained earlier in the season.
Well, you can, but I'm not going to believe you. At any rate, there is some cause to think Davis is going to return to form next season and I personally believe he will. The 49ers also seem to do so, drafting a couple project tight ends in the latter stages of the NFL Draft and choosing not to address the position in free agency, despite a solid market at the position.
So what's next for Davis?
Why he might improve:
First and foremost, Davis is not taking part in any kind of holdout (we think) and should be entering this season totally healthy. I notice Davis' technical shortcomings more and more because I am easily reminded of them from before Mike Singletary took over, but I'm not going to pretend that the ankle and back injuries didn't play some part. Davis doesn't need to do much to eclipse his 2014 stat line and given the improved group of receivers coupled with last season's results, I imagine he'll surprise quite a few defenses next season.
Why he might regress:
Davis is 31 years old and his production has always wildly fluctuated. Maybe his injuries last season were a sign of his body simply breaking down given the rigors of the NFL. That's never a reality that we like to admit, but it's going to happen and likely sooner rather than later. It's also possible the 49ers' rebuilt offense will not feature the tight end position prominently, in which case we could see him have something near the same stat line.
Odds of making the roster:
This is Vernon Davis, you guys -- he's going to make the roster. I suppose there's a chance there's some kind of holdout that results in him being on another team next season, but that's not rumored or likely and this section is more about being cut for other reasons. Davis is safe, and the 49ers are likely putting a lot behind him this coming season.