Good article on the TE situation. Gives good insight on us not trading the farm to move down for Davis. Maybe we will score big and maybe the organization was smart taking 2 later on :-)
By Craig Ellenport
(May 2, 2006) -- With his uncanny combination of great size and speed, I have no doubt that rookie tight end Vernon Davis can a) chase me down; and b) beat me up. But I'm going to come out and say this anyway: The San Francisco ***** should not have taken Davis with the sixth overall pick in the draft last weekend.
I'm not saying the 6-foot-3, 256-pound Maryland product won't be a stud in the NFL. And I'm not saying that I know half as much as the grizzled football veterans who are making draft-day decisions for the 32 NFL clubs. But I do believe that history backs up one of my strongest draft-day philosophies: As long as there are other viable options, do not draft a tight end in the first round.
This theory is backed up by numbers. Great tight ends are as much a product of their system and the other skill-position players around them. And that means you can find a productive tight end later in the draft. It's certainly easier to find a productive tight end late in the draft than it is to find a big-time running back or receiver. And here's some proof:
Check out the top 10 players from 2005 in terms of rushing yards, receiving yards by receivers and receiving yards by tight ends -- and look at where they were drafted. It's not just the fact that the best tight end in the NFL today, Antonio Gates, was an undrafted free agent. Among the top 10 pass-catching tight ends from last season, there were not one but two undrafted free agents. There were three first-round picks and only five of the 10 were taken in the first two rounds. Among the top 10 receivers, there were six first-rounders and eight of 10 taken in the first two rounds. The running backs included seven first-rounders and nine of 10 taken in the first two rounds.
Here's the list:
PLAYER ROUND DRAFTED
Shaun Alexander 1
Tiki Barber 2
Larry Johnson 1
Clinton Portis 2
Edgerrin James 1
LaDainiain Tomlinson 1
Rudi Johnson 4
Warrick Dunn 1
Thomas Jones 1
Willis McGahee 1
PLAYER ROUND DRAFTED
Steve Smith 3
Santana Moss 1
Chad Johnson 2
Larry Fitzgerald 1
Anquan Boldin 2
Torry Holt 1
Joey Galloway 1
Donald Driver 7
Plaxico Burress 1
Marvin Harrison 1
PLAYER ROUND DRAFTED
Antonio Gates Undrafted
Tony Gonzalez 1
Jeremy Shockey 1
Alge Crumpler 2
Todd Heap 1
Chris Cooley 3
Jason Witten 3
L.J. Smith 2
Randy McMichael 4
Jermaine Wiggins Undrafted
Sure, you can't argue with the value of first-round tight ends like Gonzalez, Shockey and Heap. But you can argue the teams that drafted those guys might have been better off solidifying other positions and drafting a tight end slightly further down the line.
Just look at the *****: They already had a tight end on their roster, Eric Johnson, who caught 82 passes for 825 yards in 2004. Sure, he missed all of 2005 with an injury. But do you think he won't be able to come back with the same physical prowess that made him a … seventh-round draft pick?
Vernon Davis will have to prove he was worthy of his lofty draft status.
Sure, Vernon Davis can be a valuable asset for young ***** quarterback Alex Smith, who needs more weapons at his disposal. But since the ***** are not exactly stacked at the receiver position, you can bet that opponents will be keeping a watchful eye on Davis.
Can he have the impact that first-round tight end Heath Miller had with the Steelers last season? Well, let's take a closer look at that situation: Opposing defenses often put eight men in the box to combat Pittsburgh's powerful running game, and they still had to deal with a Pro Bowl receiver in Hines Ward. Could any rookie tight end have stepped into that situation and caught six TD passes, as Miller did? Hard to say. But Tampa Bay drafted tight end Alex Smith in the third round last year, and I'd venture to say Smith would have had the same impact as Miller in that Steelers offense.
Need more convincing? Heck, the Patriots have won three of the last five Super Bowls, and they've got two tight ends that were first-round draft picks. But while those guys -- Ben Watson and Daniel Graham -- have yet to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl, linebacker Mike Vrabel has two TD catches in those games!
And going back to the '90s, there were four prolific pass-catching tight ends who made an impact on Super Bowl-winning teams. Well, guess what? None of them caught so much as a sniff of the first round when they were drafted:
Shannon Sharpe, Broncos: seventh round
Mark Chmura, Packers: sixth round
Jay Novacek, Cowboys: sixth round
Brent Jones, *****: fifth round
In conclusion, don't think this information is meant to question the ability of Vernon Davis. For all we know, Davis could be every bit as good as guys like Ozzie Newsome and Kellen Winslow -- former first-round picks who are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of course, those guys never did win a Super Bowl -- let alone play in one.
I'm just wondering if a team with multiple needs like the ***** might have been better off filling a different hole with the sixth overall pick, and getting a capable tight end in the second or third round.
History says that might have been the way to go.