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With Crabtree Hurt, Vernon Davis Is Poised For a Return to Form
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Vernon Davis is among the best values at tight end this season.

There’s no denying that tight end is a position of scarcity in 2013. Jimmy Graham is the crystal clear number one while Rob Gronkowski’s health remains in question. Fantasy owners are likely to reach for second-tier tight ends like Jason Witten and Tony Gonzalez just to lock down an almost guaranteed 90 catches, and who could blame them?

You can either overpay for a tight end or snatch a value pick in the later rounds. And Vernon Davis could be great value.

In 2012, Davis suffered through his worst season since 2008. He had 41 receptions for 548 yards and five touchdowns. There were ten tight ends who had at least as many receptions as Davis’ 61 targets.

It gets worse. In the Niners’ 19 games, including the playoffs, Davis had seven games where he had one or no receptions. In two games, Davis wasn’t even targeted.

Life didn’t get much easier when Jim Harbaugh decided to bench Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick in Week 11. In the last four games of the regular season, Davis had just one catch in each game.

In 2009-10, Davis led the 49ers in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns, but gave way to breakout star Michael Crabtree in 2011-12.  As you well know, Crabtree suffered a torn achilles during the team’s OTAs last week and is expected to be out until at least Thanksgiving.

On the plus side, Crabtree’s injury occurred prior to the start of the season, which gives Kaepernick plenty of time to find a rhythm with his receivers sans Crabtree.

Meanwhile, WRs Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are both returning from torn ACLs, and the team doesn’t know what it’ll get from last year’s first round pick A.J. Jenkins. San Fran’s one saving grace is the addition of Anquan Boldin who now slots in as their number one wideout.

You can expect the 49ers to feature plenty of Vernon Davis this season. Davis’ moribund 2012 season should prove an outlier especially in light of Crabtree’s absence. That’s not to mention that Davis and Kaepernick have had an entire offseason to work through the kinks.

Davis, who was nicknamed “Cyborg” at Maryland for his freakish athleticism, remains a matchup nightmare for linebackers and opposing defenses. There’s simply no other tight end in the league that combines his size and speed. It makes no sense that a player of Davis’ caliber could simply fall through the cracks as he did last season.

Davis would be a candidate for a bounce back campaign even if Crabtree was healthy, but should now easily eclipse 100 targets. It also helps his durability has never come into question. Davis hasn’t missed a game since 2007.

The light appeared to go on between Kaepernick and Davis in the NFC title game and the Super Bowl. In those two games, the biggest of each player’s career, Davis hauled in 11 catches for 210 yards and one touchdown.

That’s the Vernon Davis we’ve come to expect and that’s the Vernon Davis you’ll see throughout the 2013 season.

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