StrategySeptember 19, 2008

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Protect Yourself Against VD

By Joseph Malizia

Size matters – especially when it comes to the tight end position. As a matter of fact, three of the league’s top tight ends are at least 6’4” and 250 pounds. Vernon Davis (6’3”, 250 pounds), TE for the San Francisco 49ers, is no small potatoes himself. Many fantasy owners expected him to join the NFL’s elite this year under Mike Martz’ high-flying offensive system, but that hasn’t happened yet. The following article takes a closer look at why Davis has failed to reach his potential and projects his fantasy stats for 2008.

The three aforementioned TEs who are at least 6′4″ and 250 pounds are:

• Jason Witten (6’5”, 262 pounds)
• Antonio Gates (6’4”, 260 pounds)
• Kellen Winslow II (6’4”, 250 pounds)

So what’s up with Vernon Davis? The 49ers hung 33 points on the Seahawks this weekend and the Irishman from Burbank, J.T. (Just Throw it) O’Sullivan, tossed the pigskin for 321 yards. However, this high-scoring affair benefited Vernon Davis owners to the tune of… drum roll please… 0 fantasy points. He managed this spectacular feat by hauling in a total of 0 catches for 0 yards.

So why is this happening? Does he have a bad rapport with O’Sullivan? Does Martz’s offense prevent TEs from becoming playmakers? Or is Davis just one inch too short to qualify for elite status?

Maybe the problem is that *gasp* he just isn’t that good. Sure, he has the size that coaches salivate over. He also had an exceptional college career and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine (believed to be the fastest time ever for a TE). His size, speed, and collegiate accomplishments led to him being drafted with the sixth pick in the first round in 2006. Surely the 49ers expected to get a greater return on their $23 million investment. However, two games into the 2008 season, Davis has yet to make an impact. As fantasy football owners, we need to decide – panic or patience?

First off, there is no reason to panic. Several fantasy studs have gotten off to poor starts this year and many should bounce back. However, owners need to lower their expectations drastically. VD is no fantasy stud and never has been. Last year, Davis posted Tier II numbers for a tight end (509 yards and four touchdowns). I expect him to reach those numbers again, but not to surpass them. With that in mind, protect yourself. Be on the lookout for a solid replacement on the waiver wire or on an opponent’s roster. John Carlson has impressed in Seattle and several other tight ends had good week one performances only to disappear in week two (Anthony Fasano, Robert Royal, Bo Scaife, and David Martin to name a few). Pick up Carlson if he is still available and monitor the other TEs over the next several weeks.

Davis may eventually find his niche in this offense and start to produce as a top-tier TE, but before that happens he’s got some work to do. To start with, “The Duke” needs to stop dropping catchable balls in the end zone as he did in week two. He also needs to shed those alligator arms (“For who? For what?” Ricky Watters, 1995… anyone feel me?) which kept him from a huge gain this weekend as well. Finally, he needs to stay healthy (Davis missed games in each of the last two years due to injuries). If VD can do all of that, he may just find a cure for what ails him.

Joey Litz has been playing fantasy sports since the late 80s - back when it was all referred to as rotisserie and as commissioner, kept track of the leagues with a USA Today and a pencil. It's a passion of his during the NFL season. Thanks to the Fantasy Cafe for providing a forum for enthusiasts like us to get together. You can find Litz posting in the Cafe forums as joejlitz.
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